H-hour at Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima is a small 4½-mile-long, 7½-square-mile volcanic island 760 miles from Tokyo. Located about midway between Japan and U.S. bases in the Marianas Islands, this island was one of the closest islands to Japan that was flat enough to build an air base for bombing missions to Japan. The island contained two miles of beaches and two airstrips and Mount Suribachi volcano. For the Japanese it was one their last lines of defense for an attack on the main Japanese islands. The historian William Manchester described it as “an ugly, smelly glob of cold lava in a surly ocean.” It is now called Iwoto

American military strategists wanted to take the island and use it as a forward air base and an emergency landing field close enough to the Japanese islands to run sorties over Tokyo with new B-29 bombers, protected by fighters. They thought their superior firepower and 3-to-1 advantage at Iwo Jima would give them an easy victory. They were wrong. The Japanese had done their best to make the island impregnable. Battles raged for a little over a month and advances were measured in feet and yards. Many encounters were decided by bayonets and muscle.

The Japanese mission was to inflict as much damage on American forces in a battle that was destined to end in defeat. No reinforcements, no battleships and no air supplies were sent to them. More than 20,000 Japanese died at Iwo Jima. Only 1083 survived. The American landed 100,000 troops, including 77,000 marines. About 7,000 were killed and 20,00 were wounded.

Karen Evans wrote on The American Legion website:“On February 19, 1945, the United States invaded Iwo Jima as part of its strategy to defeat Japan. Although not originally a target, the relatively swift fall of the Philippines provided a tactical opportunity prior to the planned invasion of Okinawa. Iwo Jima was used by the Japanese to alert the homeland of incoming American planes and was located between Japan and the Mariana Islands, a base for long-range American bombers. Following the capture of the island, America weakened the Japanese early warning system and provided an emergency landing strip for damaged bombers. [Source: by: Karen Evans, The American Legion, legion.org/yourwords ]

Film: “The Sands of Iwo Jima” contains some footage shot by Marine combat cameramen during the real battle.

Vulnerable and Isolated Japan

Not long after Pearl Harbor, Japan found itself overextended and undersupplied. After initial naval and battlefield successes and a tremendous overextension of its resources in the war against a quickly mobilizing United States and Allied war effort, Japan was unable to sustain "Greater East Asia". It was just a matter of time before the U.S. and its allies geared up their industrial might to produce weapons and equipment for a counter-offensive.

As an island nation, Japan was dependent on ocean-going vessels to move food, raw materials, weapons, supply and troops. The victory at Leyte Gulf in October 1944 virtually eliminated the Japanese Navy as a military threat. American military vessels were able to move freely and eventually cut off Japan from its sources of raw materials in Southeast Asia. By the end of 1944, only half of Japan merchant vessels were operational. The other vessels had been damaged or sunk primarily by submarines. By the end of the war, only 5 percent of Japan's naval fleet had survived. In Japan , there were food shortages and families scoured the forests for wild vegetables to eat.

In 1944, the U.S. allied with England, Australia and numerous Asian liberation movements began to drive the Japanese back. After Leyte Gulf, U.S. forces worked their way toward Japan island to island in a series of brutal and bloody battles. The closer to Japan the U.S. forces got the more incendiary bombs they loaded on their planes to drop on Japan. By the summer of 1945 fire-bombing raids of Japanese cities (made up predominately of wooden house) incinerated 60 percent of the ground area of Japan's 60 largest cities. [Source: "History of Warfare" by John Keegan, Vintage Books]

Landing at Iwo Jima

Americans landed on Iwo Jima in a sort "Oriental D-Day" on February 19, 1945. Over 100,000 men came ashore on the gritty volcanic beaches and battled an army of 22,000 Imperial Japanese Army and Navy troops hidden is caves, pillboxes and blockhouses. The largest chunk of the American force was made up of 72,000 Marines assault troops, the largest force of Marines ever assembled at that point in history. Two thirds of them were either killed or wounded.

A volcanic island, Iwo Jima was heavily fortified and the invading U.S. Marines suffered high casualties. The elevation of Mount Suribachi's 546-foot dormant cone was a tremendous artillery vantage point for the Japanese against our forces - particularly the landing beaches. As a necessity, American effort thus concentrated on isolating and capturing Suribachi, a goal achieved on February 23, 1945 with the raising of the American flag, four days after the battle commenced.

As the first Japanese homeland-soil secured by Americans, it had been a matter of honor for the Japanese to prevent its capture. Despite our success in reaching Suribachi, the battle continued to rage for 31 days until March 26. The 35-day assault would ultimately result in more than 26,00, including 6,800 deaths. for the United States, 20,000 deaths for the Japanese.

Japanese Soldiers on Iwo Jima

Knowing there was little chance that a small force of Japanese could defeat the Americans at Iwo Jima, the Japanese built an elaborate 18-mile network of tunnels, and bunkers to try and hold on as long as possible and tie the Americans down for as long as possible. The tunnels allowed soldiers to withstand the American invasion for 40 days.

Many of the Japanese soldiers stationed on Iwo Jima were involved in digging tunnels and bunkers and repairing an airfield that was the target of daily bombing raids by American planes. The American presence in the area was so strong that Japanese army headquarter decided to stop delivering supplies to Iwo Jima because it was too risky. Japanese soldiers survived on slightly-salty water, small amounts of rice, dried sweet potato stems, and thinly sliced squash. Dried tofu was considered a special treat. Some soldiers were so desperately hungry they ate the trunks of papaya trees and the stalks and stems of bananas. Iwo Jima had no natural springs or other sources of water. Most of the water the soldiers drank was collected rain water. Soldiers often wrote home about how thirsty they were.

Letters from Iwo Jima, See Film

One Japanese soldier wrote back home: “My Dear Wife, We married as we were meant to marry. During our marriage of more than 10 years, we were poor but truly happy, blessed with five wonderful children. Even though I have made a heroic resolve, nothing can steel my heart enough to make me stop missing our children. I know I am being unmanly, but I am seizing this lucky chance to write and let you know I have always fought the demons in my heart by thinking about our beloved children.”

Landing on Iwo Jima Fighting

About 30,000 troops landed on Iwo Jima on February 19th 1945. Before the landing the Americans unleashed a huge barrage of firepower from naval vessels positioned offshore and airplanes One Japanese survivors described the shelling as “like a drum roll during a village festival.”

Describing the battle on Iwo island, New York Times correspondent Robert Trumbull reported in March 4, 1945: "Nine o'clock is H-hour. The first wave missed it by just two minutes... Six waves come in by L.V.T. (landing vehicles trackers) or armored “alligator," which is a light tank and side-wheel boat combined.... The Japs show now that they are really going to fight. Where the surf creams on the black volcanic sand of the beach there is a line of spouts. Landing craft are flying about and they burst like matchboxes. That is the work of the artillerymen and mortar crews on the heights whose dug-in emplacements escaped our bombs and gunfire. Some of these will pelt the beach until the marines reach them on their bellies with grenades and flame throwers."

"This desolate and altogether unbeautiful spawn of the volcano will be an American air base soon on the road to Tokyo. Somewhere else thousands of miles back to the east, presses are spitting out grid maps, supplies are building to go in ships that will carry us to the next place. It is the Pacific invasion cycle beginning again. Some day a vast convoy will lay off the Japanese Empire Islands. That will be the last one."

Twenty-four-year-old Corporal Charles Lindberg, one of the men who raised the flat at Iwo Jima, watched the intense bombardment of Iwo Jima before the landing at Red Beach One to take Mt. Suribachi. "The Japs had the whole beach zeroed in. Most of the fire was coming from Suribachi," he recalled. Surrounding Mount Suribachi were cliffs, tunnels, mines, booby traps, and ravines. The hostile terrain proved to be as tough an enemy as the Japanese who were firmly entrenched on the mountain. [Source: Scott Tank, Eyewitness to History.com]

Altogether 30,000 men were put ashore the first day with 2,420 Americans killed or wounded and some tanks, an amphibious vehicles sinking in the surf in the process. Some Marines sunk too. It was not unusual for a single soldier to be loaded down with 122 pounds of equipment and weaponry.

Edward Seldensticker, a Japan expert and Iwo Jima survivor told the Asahi Shimbun that soldiers on Iwo Jima got used to horror very quickly. “Having arrived at the airfield we were told to dig a foxhole,” he said. “And only after I dug the foxhole did I become aware that the site I picked — was surrounded by naked Japanese arms, dead arms sticking up from the earth...At first I was horrified and thought maybe I should...dig myself another foxhole but I quickly grew used to it, and after a very short time, it didn’t bother me at all.”

Eyewitness Accounts of the Iwo Jima Landing

Ray Anderson,a gunner on a navy ship, wrote: Our fifth and final invasion was Iwo Jima February 19th. It was supposed to be a 3-or-4-day battle, but the capture of Iwo Jima ended up in a bloody struggle that took 36 days of hell by soldiers, sailors and airmen who endured the worst fighting imaginable in just 8 square miles to overcome the fanatical Japanese defense. For the assault troops who landed it meant an ugly death to many of them. It has been called the toughest battle of World War II. The commander of our LCI group, a chronic alcoholic, was drunk the third day of the invasion and maneuvered his ship so close to the beach that propellers were kicking up mud and sniper bullets were hitting the conning tower and mast where he was sitting in a drunken stupor unaware of the danger. The Executive Officer placed him under arrest, confiscated his liquor supply and confined him to his cabin under guard until he was sufficiently sober to resume command. [Source:Ray Anderson's Eyewitness Account to World War II, The American Legion, legion.org/yourwords ==]

Bob Gasche was a 21-year-old Marine when he boarded a troop ship bound for Iwo Jima. The trip he said was no picnic. “A troop ship is not like a Carnival cruise ship...The thing you dreaded wasas the ship was rolling, you hoped the guy (in the bunk) above you did not get sea sick. That was a disaster.” [Source: Dan Hildebran, StarkeJournal.com, February 11, 2011]

Bob Gasche was quoted in StarkeJournal.com as saying “just getting to the beach was a perilous journey. He said that transferring from the troop ship to the Higgins boat, which transported the Marines to the beach, involved each Marine weighted down with gear, descending into the landing craft via a cargo net. Gasche said that as the troop ship was rolling back and forth, the Higgins boat was bobbing up and down and slamming into the side of the transport, making the decent down the cargo net difficult and dangerous. Gasche said that when his boat reached the island, depositing 30-35 Marines close to shore, their first goal was to reach a ridge, 700 yards from the water. ‘That was 700 yards of hell,” he said, “because we lost a lot of young men, leaders, particularly second lieutenants and radio men and corpsmen.’ [Source: Dan Hildebran, StarkeJournal.com, February 11, 2011 |=|]

“Gasche also said the sprint to the first ridge was made more difficult by the volcanic ash that covered the island. He described the material as black, loose sand, similar to coffee grounds that made progress along the beach slow and difficult. He added, however, that the sand saved his life when a mortor round landed six feet from him and another Marine. Gasche said the round failed to detonate because it was absorbed by the soft sand. “I got peppered with everything you can imagine, along with the other guy, but we survived,” he said. |=|

Fighting on Iwo Jima

American military commanders had hoped Iwo Jima could be taken in two weeks. Many thought it could be taken in five days based on the numerical advantage the Americans had. Instead it took 36 days of intense fighting. The battle took place as the war in Europe was reaching its conclusion: the Allies had crossed the Rhine and captured Warsaw and attention was focused on the Pacific.

The Japanese army did not concentrate its forces at the Allied landing points or use suicidal banzai attacks as it had in the Gilberts, Marshalls and Marianas. Instead soldiers hid in the interior of the island and attacked Americans as they moved inland with showers of massive 32- and 30-millimeter mortars, barrel-size bombs and gunfire from dozens of well-hidden bunkers located at the most logical paths of advance.

Robert Trumbull wrote in the New York Times, "The Jap ground forces are not on the beach except in numbers sufficient for a delaying action. They are waiting in pillboxes, blockhouses and interlocking trenches around the airfield. They are smart — they make us come to them. We do, and get the hell kicked out of us but we keep coming and gain ground, yard by yard. If there is an easier way to do it, we'd like to know."

"Artillery fire to the rear is heard by the front-line marines as a deep rumble. Our shells make a shuddering sort of sigh as they pass overhead to bury themselves among the Japanese, Marines in faded green dungarees and camouflaged helmets lie prone on the rough black sand sharp as cinders and fire their carbines with cold fingers... The flat blast of a demolition charge splits the air. Marines rise, dash ahead a few yards and flop again. Another pillbox has been eliminated. Corpsmen, disdaining the singing bullets, pick up the wounded and cover the dead. Another 10, maybe 20 yards has been gained."

Joe Rosental, the man who took the famous Iwo Jima flag-raising photograph, said that with the amount of firepower involved in the battle: “Not getting hit was like running through the rain and not getting wet.”

Japanese soldiers dug one-man concealed fox holes. The man inside these “spider holes” would wait for an enemy soldier to pass and then would pop up and shoot him from behind. The Americans fought back with flamethrowers that burned the Japanese alive in their underground positions.

Eyewitness Accounts of Fighting on Iwo Jima

According to StarkeJournal.com: “Gasche said that he, along with the other Americans faced frustration on Iwo Jima because after reaching the island, they could find no targets. Japanese Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi had built an extensive network of tunnels before the attack, so his troops were able to move throughout the island underground. Gasche also said the enemy used smokeless powder in their weapons, making detection even more difficult. Gasche said that because the enemy remained in caves and tunnels throughout the battle, flame throwers emerged at the Marines’ most effective weapons.” [Source: Dan Hildebran, StarkeJournal.com, February 11, 2011 |=|]

Gasche was later “wounded in the side of his abdomen and transported to a hospital ship. Gasche said he vividly recalls his final memory of the battle, the moments before he underwent emergency surgery to remove shrapnel from his abdomen.“The doctor had a ball of cotton in his hand,” recalled Gasche. “He said, ‘I want you to start counting. Count to 10.’ He took a can of ether and laced that cotton with the ether and shoved it in my face. I never got to 10.” |=|

Bill Gardner, a signalman second class for the Navy, helped provide support to Marines during Iwo Jima. “Everything happens so fast you don’t have time to think,” he told the Portland Press Herald. “We loaded ammunition during the day and fired our guns on them all night long.” Gardner, said it was difficult to know how the battle was faring on the island because visibility was limited. But they could tell Marines were suffering significant casualties when they saw the wounded being transported to medical ships, he said. [Source: Joe Lawlor, Portland Press Herald, March 13, 2015]

One day near the end of the battle, the Izard left its spot near shore for refueling and resupplying. “Not 10 seconds later, the ship that replaced us got hit. I don’t know how many died, but a lot of people died,” said Gardner, wiping his eyes with a shaky hand. He said only one sailor on the Izard died – from electrocution – but there were many close calls. “The difference between winning and dying in war is as close as an eyelash,” Gardner said. “I don’t know why I’m here. Only God knows why.” As the Izard was pulling away from Iwo Jima, Gardner saw the island’s new cemeteries, filled with the Marines and Navy corpsmen who had died there. “I remember as we passed the island we saw three cemeteries, with thousands of crosses and Stars of David. It was just the way it was. It was the reality of what war does,” Gardner said.

Raising the American Flag on Iwo Jima

Just four days after landing a unit of 40 marines defeated a small Japanese force on 548-foot-high Mount Suirbachi. After the fight a small banner was raised on the mountain. Later, six marines replaced the banner with a larger American flag attached to an iron pipe which they shoved into a pile of rocks.

The raising of the flag had no military significance. It did not signify victory. The heaviest fighting had not occurred yet. The soldiers that raised the flag were in no danger. Of the six soldiers who raised the flag---five marines and a navy corpsmen aged 19 to 25--- three were killed in fighting during the war. The three survivors on their return to the United States were sent on cross-country tour to raise money as part of the war-bond-selling effort.

AP photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped a picture of the Iwo Jima flag-raising scene as the flag unfurled in 1,400th of a second. It is now perhaps the most famous photograph from World War II and has been called the most reproduced photograph in history. Rosenthal almost missed the shot. After missing the first flag raising on Iwo Jima---the first American flag to be raised on Japanese soil--- he was told a larger flag was being raised on Mount Suribachi. Scrambling onto a pile or rocks for the right angle he snapped just in time.

Regarded as one of the most significant and recognizable images of WWII, three Marines depicted in the photograph would be killed in action during the next few days. After the raising Rosenthal took a shot of the soldiers waving which led to allegations---which most historians say are not true---that the photograph was staged. On all the hype over his picture Rosenthal later said, “I took it, but the Marines took Iwo Jima.” The image was rendered in bronze in the 32-foot-high Iwo Jima Memorial near Washington D.C. For many years the memorial was a popular gay cruising and pick up place.

Book: "Flags of Our Fathers" by James Bradley (Bantam, 2001) Amazon.com is the story of the men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima and what happened to them after the event. It was made into the 2006 Clint Eastwood film of the same name.

Eyewitness Accounts of the Raising the American Flag on Iwo Jima

Scott Tank a friend of Corporal Charles W. Lindberg, the last surviving member of the team that raised the first flag on the crest of Mt. Suribachi, reported on Eyewitness to History.com: “At 8 a.m. on February 23, a patrol of 40 men from 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, led by 1LT Lieutenant Harold G. Schrier, assembled at the base of Mount Suribachi. The platoon's mission was to take the crater of Suribachi's peak and raise the U.S. flag. As a member of the first combat patrol to scale Mount Suribachi, Cpl Lindberg took his 72-pound flamethrower and started the tortuous climb up the rough terrain to the top. [Source: Scott Tank,Eyewitness to History.com]

As they reached the top, the patrol members took positions around the crater watching for pockets of enemy resistance as other members of the patrol looked for something on which to raise the flag. Present at the crest were six Marines of a 40-man patrol. They were 1LT Lieutenant Schrier, Sergeant Thomas, Sergeant Hansen, Private First Class Charlo, Private First Class Michels, and Corporal Charles W. Lindberg.

At approximately 10:20 a.m., the flag was hoisted on a steel pipe above the island. The sight of the small American flag flying from atop Mount Suribachi thrilled men all over the island. And for the first time during WWII, an American flag was flying above what was considered traditional Japanese territory. This symbol of victory sent a wave of strength to the battle-weary fighting men below, and struck a further mental blow against the island's defenders.

Marine Corps photographer Sergeant Lou Lowery captured this first flag raising on film just as the enemy hurled a grenade in his direction. Dodging the grenade, Lowery hurled his body over the edge of the crater and tumbled 50 feet. His camera lens was shattered, but he and his film were safe. [Ibid]

Lindberg later remarked, "Suribachi was easy to take; it was getting there that was so hard!" Of the 40-man patrol, thirty-six were killed or wounded in later fighting on Iwo Jima including Lindberg himself who would be shot through the stomach and arm a week later on 1 March, 1945. For his heroism Lindberg would receive the Purple Heart and Silver Star Medal with the citation reading in part: "Repeatedly exposing himself to hostile grenades and machine-gun fire in order that he might reach and neutralize enemy pill-boxes at the base of Mount Suribachi, Corporal Lindberg courageously approached within ten or fifteen yards of the emplacements before discharging his weapon, thereby assuring the annihilation of the enemy and the successful completion of this platoon's mission. While engaged in an attack on hostile cave positions on March 1, he fearlessly exposed himself to accurate enemy fire and was subsequently wounded and evacuated." [Ibid]

One American soldier said cheers went up all around the Island “because at that point, we all knew it was over.” The Portland Press Herald reported: Bill Gardner squinted through binoculars from the deck of the USS Izard, a Navy destroyer bombarding the Japanese during the battle of Iwo Jima. He could barely make out the summit of Mount Suribachi, where a few Marines were raising the American flag. “It was an emotional thing. The flag was a great sight,” Gardner said. “Everyone was cheering.” [Source: Portland Press Herald, March 13, 2015]

Japanese Version of the Iwo Jima Flag Raising

Tsuruji Akikusa, a former Japanese soldier, wrote in a book about his experiences at Iwo Jima. On the morning of February 23, he saw the first U.S. flag go up on Suribachi's peak, followed shortly thereafter by the second, larger flag as was captured in Rosenthal's famous photograph. Akikusa's descriptions up to this point correspond completely to American accounts of the event. But what followed afterward appears to contradict the official U.S. Naval version of the battle. [Source: MSN Japan News Manichi, February 20, 2007]

Akikusa relates in his book, "It was not the Stars & Stripes, but the Nissho-ki [Japanese Sun flag] that was waving. Even though the peak was the target of attack from every direction on the island, I thought how hard they must have fought, and tears naturally came to my eyes. The valiant fighters were defending Mt. Suribachi to the death." The U.S. troops quickly hauled down the Japanese standard and replaced it with their own flag. But early the next morning, February 25, "the Nissho-ki was once again fluttering in the morning sunshine. It was a dazzling, beautiful sight...The flag was a different one from the day before," Akikusa recalls. "It was a smaller one, and square. It may have been improvised. The red circle in the center looked brownish, so it could have been blood."

"It may have been made out of a shirt. It moved me to tears. 'Our guys are still up there,' I thought. 'They're giving everything they've got. So will I... I had hoped to see the Nissho-ki still flying the next morning, but that miracle was not to be...I said to myself, 'Well, I guess that's the end of it.'"

By March 8, the US attackers had turned their overwhelming numerical superiority on Mt. Tamana. Akikusa, wounded in the left leg and right hand, witnessed scenes of incredible carnage. Unconscious from multiple wounds, he awakened in a POW hospital on Guam.

Karen Evans wrote on The American Legion website: The photo was later used by Felix de Weldon to sculpt the Marine Corps War Memorial, dedicated in 1954, in honor and memory of all Marines who have given their lives for their country. Commissioned to design the memorial in 1951, it would take three years and hundreds of assistants to complete the iconic image. The flag-raising survivors would pose for de Weldon who would then sculpt the others from photographs. [Source: Karen Evans, The American Legion, legion.org/yourwords ]

Cave Fighting at Iwo Jima

Tadamichi Kuribayashi — the unconventional general who commanded the Japanese forces during the battle at Iwo Jima — looked out for ordinary soldiers, protected them against abusive officers and built an elaborate network of tunnels that effectively turned the island into an underground fortress and allowed a garrison that was supposed to fall in five days to hold out for 36. Kuribayashi studied at Harvard and opposed the war.

The final stage of the battle took place in a vast 16 kilometer network of hidden tunnels, caves, 5,000 cave entrances, bunkers, pillboxes and concrete blockhouses with five-foot-thick walls. The caves the Japanese hid in felt like sauna baths because of the heat generated by the islandn’t volcanos. Before the war sulfur was mined from steaming pit at Iwo Jima.

American guns and artillery were of little use against the Japanese defenses. The Americans had the most success against the Japanese soldiers with flame throwers, grenades, Sherman tanks, ignited gasoline, bazookas fired at point blank range and explosives that sucked in so much oxygen they caused enemy soldiers to die from suffocation. The remains of many dead Japanese can still be found in the caves where they were killed.

By mid-March Kuribayashi has only 1,500 men left. They were all in caves, tunnels and bunkers in a one square mile area in a place called Bloody Gorge. Kurabashi was holed up in a cave that was thirty feet below the ground surface and entered through a small opening that required one to shimmy on onen’t belly. The U.S. marines that approached the cave were picked off by gunmen behind well-fortified bunkers with peepholes. A total of 1,071 marines were killed in the “mopping up” operation.

One Japanese survivor, a 17-year-old communications soldier at the time of the battle, later wrote: “I walked further, clutching a grenade as my protective deity and supporting myself with a bamboo stick. Deeply fatigued, I became less and less sure about when I’d last had any water, or eaten anything.”

Book: “So Sad to Fall in Battle” Amazon.com is based on General Tadamichi Kuribayashin’t letters from Iwo Jima. It inspired the Clint Eastwood film “Letters from Iwo Jima”. Kuribayashin’t body was never found, Some think he committed suicide. Other disagree.

Victory at Iwo Jima

American declared victory at Iwo Jima on March 16, 1945. Only 1,083 Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner or surrendered. The other 20,000 were presumed dead. The United States suffered 26,038 casualties including 6,821 dead. It was the only battle in which the Americans suffered more casualties than the Japanese.

Some American units were almost entirely wiped out. Of the 84 Medals of Honor received by the Marines in World War II, one third were awarded for action on Iwo Jima. Franklin Hobbs, who was 21 when he was on Iwo Jima, told AP: “It was just death everywhere. I hated it.” He encountered three dead Japanese soldiers being searched by American soldiers and took a letter from the pocket of one the dead men: 36-year-old Matsuji Takekawa. He said: “I saw the letter sticking out and said, “I don’t want any swords or anything, but I think I’ll take this letter.” I just picked up it up, I suppose out of curiosity. But I felt a little bad about it at the time.” He later tracked down the Takekawan’t daughter and gave the letter to her when she was in her 70s.

A Japanese survivor who was the only member of his unit to survive told the Daily Yomiuri,”A pile of dead comrades saved my life.” He was found by U.S. forces. “A U.S. military officer gave me some water in his canteen, saying “Drink.” The water in my canteen was black, just like ditch water.”

"The performance of the United States Marine Corps," historian Jack Keegan wrote, "in the battles to conquer the islands of Iwo Jima or Okinawa (1945) in particular, gave the lie to Hitler's deluded and racialist dismissal of the Americans as a people emasculated by material plenty." [Source: "History of Warfare" by John Keegan, Vintage Books]

Image Sources: National Archives of the United States; Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun, The New Yorker, Lonely Planet Guides, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wikipedia, BBC, “Eyewitness to History “, edited by John Carey ( Avon Books, 1987), Comptonn’t Encyclopedia, “History of Warfare “ by John Keegan, Vintage Books, Eyewitness to History.com, “The Good War An Oral History of World War II” by Studs Terkel, Hamish Hamilton, 1985, BBCn’t Peoplen’t War website and various books and other publications.

Last updated November 2016

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