The Battle of Iwo Jima, also known as Operation Detachment, was a major battle in the Pacific Theater. It was the fiercest battles of the Pacific Theater. Iwo Jima held significance as it was the first of the Japanese Home Islands the Americans managed to capture. Iwo Jima was significant for the Japanese as it provided an airbase for the Japanese to intercept & destroy long range B-29 Superfortress bombers, provided Japanese troops with support and along with Okinawa was the of the two closest islands to Mainland Japan. Also capturing this island would stop most of their early warning to the Japanese mainland and stop some of the Japanese interceptors from shooting down the allied bombers and would provide a valuable staging point for a possible invasion. A very prominate positions used by the Japanese was Mount Suribachi which had a clear view of the entire landing party and housed many fortifications and weapons. The island also had very large intricate mazes of tunnels that were so expansive that some Japanese managed to hide months and even years after the taking of the island in these tunnels. By the battles end there was approximately 26,000 U.S casualties and over 6,800 dead being the second largest numbver of casualties in the Pacific second only to Okinawa.Of the estimated 21,000 Japanese troops an estimated 20,000 were dead by the battles end from either combat or post battle suicide and only 1,008 prisoners were taken. Iwo Jima is also the place of the iconic picture of the six marines who raised the United States flag atop Mount Suribachi. Little is it known that the picture was not the true raising of the flag but rather a raising after the firstin which a larger flag was used for the media. The Navajo Code talkers were also used greatly when taking Iwo Jima, and a Navajo marine, Ira Hayes, was one of the six who rose the flag, and was one of the three that survived the fighting. The other five marines who raised the flag were Mike Strank, Rene Gagnon, Harlon Block, Franklin Sously, and John Bradley.
When World War II began September 1, 1939 the United States was officially neutral in the conflict. That all changed on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese launched an attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, which was, and still is, US territory. The next day the United States declared war on Japan and the rest of the axis. Iwo Jima was first noticed as a target due to the fact that it was close to Japan and could be used as a landing base for damaged B-29s and a staging base for Air Raids against Japan. Meanwhile, General Tadamichi Kuribayashi of the Imperial Japanese Army ordered the creation of tunnels and bunkers under the island and in Mount Suribachi. It contained bases for troops, hospitals, weapons and more.
Operation Detachment Begins
On February 19, 1945 the Battle of Iwo Jima began with the amphibious invasion by United States Marines and Navy. Although Mt. Suribachi would be taken in just 5 days, the Battle would last a bloody 35 days before the Island would finally be declared captured. Over 23,000 Japanese Troops were on the island at the time of the invasion. The Japanese had a change of strategy and instead of defending the beach line they focused on staying inland.