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Battle of Iwo Jima - Facts, Significance and Dates

Battle of Iwo Jima - Facts, Significance and Dates

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The Battle of Iwo Jima was an epic military campaign between U.S. Located 750 miles off the coast of Japan, the island of Iwo Jima had three airfields that could serve as a staging facility for a potential invasion of mainland Japan. American forces invaded the island on February 19, 1945, and the ensuing Battle of Iwo Jima lasted for five weeks. In some of the bloodiest fighting of World War II, it’s believed that all but 200 or so of the 21,000 Japanese forces on the island were killed, as were almost 7,000 Marines. But once the fighting was over, the strategic value of Iwo Jima was called into question.

WATCH Command Decisions: Battle of Iwo Jima on HISTORY Vault

Iwo Jima Before the Battle

According to postwar analyses, the Imperial Japanese Navy had been so crippled by earlier World War II clashes in the Pacific that it was already unable to defend the empire’s island holdings, including the Marshall archipelago.

In addition, Japan’s air force had lost many of its warplanes, and those it had were unable to protect an inner line of defenses set up by the empire’s military leaders. This line of defenses included islands like Iwo Jima.

Given this information, American military leaders planned an attack on the island that they believed would last no more than a few days. However, the Japanese had secretly embarked on a new defensive tactic, taking advantage of Iwo Jima’s mountainous landscape and jungles to set up camouflaged artillery positions.

Although Allied forces led by the Americans bombarded Iwo Jima with bombs dropped from the sky and heavy gunfire from ships positioned off the coast of the island, the strategy developed by Japanese General Tadamichi Kuribayashi meant that the forces controlling it suffered little damage and were thus ready to repel the initial attack by the U.S. Marines, under the command of Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith.

Marines Invade Iwo Jima

On February 19, 1945, U.S. Marines made an amphibious landing on Iwo Jima, and were met immediately with unforeseen challenges. First and foremost, the beaches of the island were made up steep dunes of soft, gray volcanic ash, which made getting sturdy footing and passage for vehicles difficult.

As the Marines struggled forward, the Japanese lied in wait. The Americans assumed the pre-attack bombardment had been effective, and had crippled the enemy’s defenses on the island.

However, the lack of immediate response was simply part of Kuribayashi’s plan.

With the Americans struggling to get a foothold on the beaches of Iwo Jima—literally and figuratively—Kuribayashi’s artillery positions in the mountains above opened fire, stalling the advancing Marines and inflicting significant casualties.

Despite a banzai charge by dozens of Japanese soldiers as dusk fell, however, the Marines were eventually able to move in past the beach and seize part of one Iwo Jima’s airfields—the stated mission of the invasion.

READ MORE: How US Marines Won the Battle of Iwo Jima

Battle of Iwo Jima Rages On

Within days, some 70,000 U.S. Marines landed on Iwo Jima. Although they significantly outnumbered their Japanese enemies on the island (by a more than three-to-one margin), many Americans were wounded or killed over the five weeks of fighting, with some estimates suggesting more than 25,000 casualties, including nearly 7,000 deaths.

The Japanese, meanwhile, were also suffering major losses, and were running low on supplies—namely, weapons and food. Under Kuribayashi’s leadership, they mounted most of their defenses via attacks under the cover of darkness.

While effective, the success of the Japanese forces seemed to merely forestall the inevitable.

Just four days into the fighting, U.S. Marines captured Mount Suribachi, on Iwo Jima’s south side, famously raising an American flag at the summit. That image was captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the iconic photograph.

However, the fighting was far from over.

Iwo Jima Falls to American Forces

Battles raged on in the northern part of Iwo Jima for four weeks, with Kuribayashi essentially setting up a garrison in the mountains in that part of the island. On March 25, 1945, 300 of Kuribayashi’s men mounted a final banzai attack.

The American forces sustained a number of casualties, but ultimately quelled the attack. Although the American military declared that Iwo Jima had been captured the next day, American forces spent weeks on end trudging through the island’s jungles, finding and killing or capturing Japanese “holdouts” who refused to surrender and opted to continue fighting.

Dozens of Americans were killed during this process. Two Japanese holdouts continued to hide in the island’s caves, scavenging food and supplies until they finally surrendered in 1949, almost four years after the end of World War II.

In the end, neither the U.S. Army nor the U.S. Navy was able to use Iwo Jima as a World War II staging area. Navy Seabees, or construction battalions, did rebuild the airfields for Air Force pilots to use in case of emergency landings.

Letters from Iwo Jima

Because of the brutality of the fighting, and the fact that the battle occurred fairly close to the end of World War II, Iwo Jima—and those who lost their lives trying to capture the island—retain a great deal of significance even today, decades after the fighting stopped.

In 1954, the U.S. Marine Corps dedicated the Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, near Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to honor all Marines. The statue is based on Rosenthal’s now-famous photograph.

Actor/director Clint Eastwood in 2006 made two movies about the events on Iwo Jima called, respectively, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. The first depicts the battle from the American perspective, while the latter shows it from the Japanese perspective.

The Pictures that Defined World War II


Brimelow, B. (2018). “73 years ago a war photographer snapped the most iconic image of World War II — here’s the story of the battle behind the photo.” BusinessInsider.com.

Naval History and Heritage Command. “The Battle for Iwo Jima.” History.Navy.mil.

National World War II Museum. “Fact Sheet: the Battle for Iwo Jima.” NationalWW2Museum.org.

National World War II Museum. “Iwo Jima and Okinawa: Death at Japan’s Doorstep.” NationalWW2Museum.org.

Gerow, A. (2006). “From Flags of Our Fathers to Letters From Iwo Jima: Clint Eastwood’s Balancing of Japanese and American Perspectives.” The Asia-Pacific Journal.

Battle of Iwo Jima - Facts, Significance and Dates - HISTORY

The Battle of Iwo Jima took place during World War II between the United States and Japan. It was the first major battle of World War II to take place on Japanese homeland. The island of Iwo Jima was a strategic location because the US needed a place for fighter planes and bombers to land and take off when attacking Japan.

US Marines storm the beaches of Iwo Jima
Source: National Archives

Iwo Jima is a small island located 750 miles south of Tokyo, Japan. The island is only 8 square miles in size. It is mostly flat except for a mountain, called Mount Suribachi, located on the southern end of the island.

The Battle of Iwo Jima took place near the end of World War II. US Marines first landed on the island on February 19, 1945. The generals who planned the attack had thought that it would take around a week to take the island. They were wrong. The Japanese had many surprises for the US soldiers and it took over a month (36 days) of furious fighting for the US to finally capture the island.

On the first day of the battle 30,000 US marines landed on the shores of Iwo Jima. The first soldiers that landed weren't attacked by the Japanese. They thought that the bombings from US planes and battleships may have killed the Japanese. They were wrong.

Soldier using flame thrower
Source: US Marines

The Japanese had dug all sorts of tunnels and hiding places all over the island. They were waiting quietly for more marines to get on shore. Once a number of marines were on shore they attacked. Many US soldiers were killed.

The battle went on for days. The Japanese would move from area to area in their secret tunnels. Sometimes the US soldiers would kill the Japanese in a bunker. They would move on thinking it was safe. However, more Japanese would sneak into the bunker through a tunnel and then attack from behind.

First flag raised at Iwo Jima
by Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery

Raising the Flag of the United States

After 36 days of brutal fighting, the US had finally secured the island of Iwo Jima. They placed a flag on top of Mount Suribachi. When they raised the flag a picture was taken by photographer Joe Rosenthal. This picture became famous in the United States. Later a statue was made of the picture. It became the US Marine Corps Memorial located just outside Washington, DC.

Marine Corps Memorial by Christopher Hollis

Why did the US invade Okinawa?

The invasion of Okinawa, which lies just 340 miles south-west of the Japanese mainland, was another step on America’s island-hopping campaign through the Pacific. Its capture would provide a base for a planned Allied invasion of Kyushu – the most southwesterly of Japan’s four main islands – and ensure that the entire Japanese homeland was now within bombing range.

Two US Marines engage Japanese forces on Okinawa.

Okinawa was effectively viewed as the final push before an invasion of the mainland and thus a vital step towards ending the war. But by the same token, the island was Japan’s last stand in the Pacific and thus vitally important to their efforts to hold back an Allied invasion.

6 Reasons Why the Battle of Iwo Jima Is So Important to Marines

No historical account of World War II would be complete without covering the Battle of Iwo Jima.

At first glance, it seems similar to many other battles that happened late in the Pacific War: American troops fiercely fought their way through booby traps, Banzai charges and surprise attacks while stalwart dug-in Japanese defenders struggled against overwhelming U.S. power in the air, on land and by sea.

For the United States Marine Corps, however, the Battle of Iwo Jima was more than one more island in a string of battles in an island-hopping campaign. The Pacific War was one of the most brutal in the history of mankind, and nowhere was that more apparent than on Iwo Jima in February 1945.

After three years of fighting, U.S. troops didn't know the end was near for the Japanese Empire. For them, every island was part of the preparation they needed to invade mainland Japan.

The 36-day fight for Iwo Jima led Adm. Chester Nimitz to give the now-immortal praise, "Uncommon valor was a common virtue."

Here are six reasons why the battle is so important to Marines:

1. It was the first invasion of the Japanese Home Islands.

The Japanese Empire controlled many islands in the Pacific area. Saipan, Peleliu and other islands were either sold to Japan after World War I or it was given control of them by the League of Nations. Then, it started invading others.

Iwo Jima was different. Though technically far from the Japanese Home Islands, it is considered to be part of Tokyo and is administered as part of its subprefecture.

After three years of taking control of islands previously captured by the Japanese, the Marines were finally taking part of the Japanese capital.

2. Iwo Jima was strategically necessary for the United States' war effort.

Taking the island meant more than a symbolic capture of the Japanese homeland. It meant the U.S. could launch bombing runs from Iwo Jima's strategic airfields, as the tiny island was directly under the flight path of B-29 Superfortresses from Guam, Saipan and the Mariana Islands.

Now, the Army Air Forces would be able to make bombing runs without a Japanese garrison at Iwo Jima warning the mainland about the danger to come. It also meant American bombers could fly over Japan with fighter escorts.

3. It was one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the Marine Corps.

Iwo Jima is a small island, covering roughly eight square miles. It was defended by 20,000 Japanese soldiers who spent a year digging in, creating miles of tunnels beneath the volcanic rock, and who were ready to fight to the last man.

When the battle was over, 6,800 Americans were dead and a further 26,000 wounded or missing. This means 850 Americans died for every square mile of the island fortress. Only 216 Japanese troops were taken prisoner.

4. More gallantry was on display at Iwo Jima than any other battle before or since.

Iwo Jima saw more Medals of Honor awarded for actions there than any other single battle in American history. A total of 27 were awarded, 22 to Marines and five to Navy Corpsmen. In all of World War II, only 81 Marines and 57 sailors were awarded the medal.

To put it in a statistical perspective, 20% of all WWII Navy and Marine Corps Medals of Honor were earned at Iwo Jima.

5. U.S. Marines were Marines and nothing else on Iwo Jima.

The U.S. has seen significant problems with race relations in its history. And though the armed forces weren't fully integrated until 1948, the U.S. military has always been on the forefront of racial and gender integration. The Marines at Iwo Jima came from every background.

While African Americans were still not allowed on frontline duty because of segregation, they piloted amphibious trucks full of White and Latino Marines to the beaches at Iwo Jima, moved ammunition and supplies to the front, buried the dead and fought off surprise attacks from Japanese defenders. Navajo Code Talkers were instrumental in taking the island. They were all Marines.

6. The iconic flag-raising became the symbol for all Marines who died in service.

Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal's photo of Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi is perhaps one of the best-known war photos ever taken. Raising the American flag at the island's highest point sent a clear message to both the Marines below and the Japanese defenders. In the years that followed, the image took on a more important role.

It soon became the symbol of the Marine Corps itself. When the Marine Corps Memorial was dedicated in 1954, it was that image that became the symbol of the Corps' spirit, dedicated to every Marine who gave their life in service to the United States.

Summary of the Battle of Iwo Jima

One day after the initial landing, the 28 th Marines would secure the southern end of the island and move to the take Mount Suribachi. At the end of the 2 nd day, the USMC would control one third of Iwo Jima as well as the Motoyama Airfield #1. By February 23 rd , Marines from the 28 th would reach the top of Mt. Suribachi and raise the American flag.

The 3 rd Division of the USMC would be put into the fight on day five of the battle and were given the mission of taking the center sector of the island. Although the fall of Mt. Suribachi and capture of the Japanese airfields signified the defenders would ultimately lose, taking the remainder of the island would not prove easy for the Marines.

A U.S. 37 mm (1.5 in) gun fires against Japanese cave positions in the north face of Mount Suribachi

The defending commander, Lieutenant General Tadamishi Kuribayashi, would focus his forces on the defense of the northern and central sections of the island. Defending soldiers would leverage numerous miles of caves, blockhouses, and pillboxes to effectively use surprise and entrenched fortifications to extract a heavy toll on the attacking Marines.

The U.S. 3 rd Division would run into the most fortified portions of the island on their move to take Japanese Airfield #2 using frontal assaults. By the night of March 9 th , the Division’s forces would reach the northeastern beach on the island effectively cutting the Japanese defense in half.

At the same time as the advance of the 3 rd Marine Division, the 5 th would move up the western coast of the island to the northern tip. The 4 th Division, was simultaneously moving to take the eastern section of the island and would repulse a banzai attack from the last of the Japanese sailors on the island which resulted in 700 enemy dead and ended the centralized resistance of fighters in the eastern sector of the island.

On March 10 th , the three divisions would meet-up on the coast of Iwo Jima almost a week after the first B-29 bomber made an emergency landing on the island on March 4 th , 1945. The final operational phase of the battle started on March 11 th with fighting focused on eliminating individual pockets of resistance. The island was declared secure on March 26 th following another banzai attack against the air corps personnel and soldiers on the beaches. The 147 th U.S. Army Infantry regiment would assume ground control of the island from the U.S. Marines on April 4 th , 1945. The Battle of Iwo Jima would see the largest body of Marines committed in combat in a single operation during the entire war.

Battle of Iwo Jima - Facts, Significance and Dates - HISTORY

U.S. Marines raise the American flag atop Mount Suribachi in Iwo Jima, 1945. Photo credit: Joe Rosenthal/AP

It all began on February 19, 1945. Over the course of five weeks, some of World War II’s bloodiest fighting unfolded 750 miles off the coast of Japan. Known in Japan as Iwo To, Iwo Jima (which means ‘Sulfur Island’ in Japanese) is an eight-square-mile active volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean. So how did this little island in the middle of the ocean become the scene of such a significant moment in U.S. military history, punctuated by an unmistakable flag raising?

Iwo Jima presented American forces with both a challenge and an opportunity. The Japanese built airstrips on Iwo Jima, which was unoccupied up to that point. Originally, American forces set their sites on the island of the Republic of Formosa (now Taiwan), but the distance was still too great for bombing runs. Enter Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima was also a thorn in the side of American forces, since fighter interceptors were frequently launched from the airstrips built on the island. Taking Iwo Jima would not only remove the threat of Japanese interceptions, but also create an opportunity for fighter escorts and a base for American forces. Thus, on October 3, 1944 the Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered preparations for the seizure of Iwo Jima.

Though the American invasion of Iwo Jima was likely unknown by the Japanese, they had taken precautions anyway, setting up camouflaged artillery positions amongst the island’s jungle-filled mountainous terrain. When American forces’ amphibious invasion took place on February 19, they immediately faced challenges unforseen during the planning stages. The moment forces stepped foot on the beaches, they were met with steep dunes composed of soft volcanic ash. The consistency of the soft black sand created a difficult ground to maintain firm footing. The deep water near shore and small, but steep beaches created significant difficulties for unloading and mobilizing the Marines’ vehicles.

Prior to the landing, Allied forces bombed the island, and assumed that their attacks crippled much of the Japanese forces. Yet, due to the varied positions taken by the Japanese on the island, the attacks were far less effective than expected. As a result, while American forces struggled to get their footing, Japanese forces in the mountains began their attack. In the days that followed, more than 70,000 Marines surged onto Iwo Jima, outnumbering Japanese forces more than three-to-one.

After four days of fighting, American forces captured Mount Suribachi, and raised the American flag in what has now become the iconic image associated with the Battle of Iwo Jima. Yet, the battle was still far from over. In fact, fighting on the northern end of Iwo Jima continued for four more weeks with the Japanese mounting a final attack on March 25, 1945. In the weeks following, American forces sought out holdouts who refused to surrender. Surprisingly, two holdouts continued to elude capture, and managed to survive without surrender until 1949, nearly four years after the conclusion of World War II.

#6 The U.S. Marine Corps were surprised by Japanese preparations

The initial landings were not greeted with Japanese fire as Kuribayashi wanted the beach full of Marine Corps and their equipment. Many who landed believed that the pre-bombardment had destroyed the Japanese defenses. Hence when the Japanese opened fire from concealed positions heavy losses were inflicted on the Marines. Mount Suribachi is the highest point on the island. The heavy artillery there opened fire and then closed the steel doors to prevent counter fire. Also the tunnel system which allowed Japanese to re-occupy cleared bunkers proved effective as Marines, who walked past them were surprised by fresh fire resulting in numerous casualties.

How the battle went down

The U.S. committed 110,308 military personnel to the battle, from naval and air crews to the Marines. The American forces also included 17 aircraft carriers and 1,170 aircraft, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Americans were aware of the Japanese fortifications on the island, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt refused to authorize the use of poison gas shells, which could possibly have made the island easier to secure. A conventional, but heavy bombardment began in the weeks before the battle, but it had little effect.

The first wave of U.S. Marines approached the beach of Iwo Jima at 8.30 a.m. local time on Feb. 19, 1945. The lead landing craft strafed the beaches with rocket and cannon fire, with supporting fire from air and naval forces.

However, when amphibious vehicles came ashore, they quickly became bogged down in the steep volcanic sand. The Marines were pinned down on the increasingly crowded beaches and were exposed to attack from artillery placed on Mount Suribachi, as well as machine guns from pillboxes just inshore.

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The Marines were forced to shelter where they could, in shallow foxholes and among the wreckage of burning vehicles. The Americans suffered almost 2,500 casualties on the first day. Nevertheless, 30,000 were able to reach the shore, and over the following few days, the battle concentrated on Mount Suribachi, which the Americans captured on Feb. 23, according to the book "Battle: A Visual Journey Through 5,000 Years of Combat" by R. G. Grant (DK, 2005).

Despite the capture of Suribachi, the Americans had taken only the southern part of Iwo Jima. They spent months inching north to conquer the whole island. The Japanese used the rocky terrain to hide and prepare ambushes, which hindered the Marines' progress. The battle ended on March 26, 1945, when U.S. forces declared they had secured the island.

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The first European to arrive at Iwo Jima was Spanish sailor Bernardo de la Torre who named it Sufre Island, after the old Spanish term for sulphur (azufre in modern Spanish). [7] At that time Iwo Jima and other nearby islands represented boundaries between the Spanish and Portuguese Empires within the far East as the demarcation line of the Treaty of Zaragoza crossed the area.

In 1779, the island was charted as Sulphur Island, the literal translation of its official name, during Captain James Cook's third surveying voyage. [8] As reported in the December 1786 supplement to The New London Magazine :

“On the 14th [of October 1779], they discovered an island, about five miles long, lying in lat. 24d. 48m. long. 141d. 12m. On the south point of this is a high barren hill, which evidently presented a volcanic crater. The earth, rock, or sand (for it was not easy to distinguish of which its surface is composed) exhibited various colours and a considerable part was conjectured to be sulphur, both from its appearance to the eye, and the strong sulphureous smell, perceived as they approached the point and some thought they saw steams rising from the top of the hill. From these circumstances, Captain Gore gave it name of Sulphur Island.” [9]

The name "Sulphur Island" was translated into Late Middle Japanese with the Sino-Japanese rendering iwau-tau イヲウトウ ( 硫黄島 , modern Japanese Iō-tō イオウトウ), from Middle Chinese ljuw-huang "sulfur" and táw "island". The historical spelling iwautau [10] had come to be pronounced (approximately) Iwō-tō by the age of Western exploration, and the 1946 orthography reform fixed the spelling and pronunciation at Iō-tō イオウトウ.

An alternative, Iwō-jima, modern Iō-jima, also appeared in nautical atlases. [11] ( and shima are different readings of the kanji for island ( 島 ) , the shima being changed by rendaku to jima in this case.) Japanese naval officers who arrived to fortify the island before the U.S. invasion mistakenly called it Iwō-jima, [11] and in this way, the Iwo Jima reading became mainstream and was the one used by U.S. forces who arrived during World War II. Former island residents protested against this rendering, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism's Geographical Survey Institute debated the issue and formally announced on June 18, 2007, that the official Japanese pronunciation of the island's name would revert to the pre-war Iō-tō. [6] Moves to revert the pronunciation were sparked by the high-profile films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. [11] The change does not affect how the name is written with kanji, 硫黄島 , only how it is pronounced or written in hiragana, katakana and rōmaji.

The island has an approximate area of 21 km 2 (8 sq mi 5,189 acres). The most prominent feature is Mount Suribachi on the southern tip, a vent that is thought to be dormant and is 161 m (528 ft) high. [1] Named after a Japanese grinding bowl, the summit of Mount Suribachi is the highest point on the island. Iwo Jima is unusually flat and featureless for a volcanic island. Suribachi is the only obvious volcanic feature, as the island is only the resurgent dome (raised centre) of a larger submerged volcanic caldera surrounding the island. [12] The island forms part of the Kazan-retto islands Important Bird Area (IBA), designated by BirdLife International. [13]

80 km (43 nautical miles, 50 mi) north of the island is North Iwo Jima ( 北硫黄島 , Kita-Iō-tō, literally: "North Sulfur Island") and 59 kilometres (37 mi 32 nmi) south is South Iwo Jima ( 南硫黄島 , Minami-Iō-tō, "South Sulfur Island") these three islands make up the Volcano Islands group of the Ogasawara Islands. Just south of Minami-Iō-jima are the Mariana Islands.

The visible island stands on a plateau (probably made by wave erosion) at depth about 15 m, which is the top of an underwater mountain 1.5 km to 2 km tall and 40 km diameter at base. [14]

Eruption history Edit

Iwo Jima has a history of minor volcanic activity a few times per year (fumaroles, and their resultant discolored patches of seawater nearby). [15] In November 2015 Iwo Jima was placed first in a list of ten dangerous volcanoes, with volcanologists saying there was a one in three chance of a large eruption from one of the ten this century. [16] [17] [18]

Prehistoric Edit

  • Earlier: An undersea volcano started, and built up into a volcanic island. It was truncated, either by caldera-forming eruption or by sea erosion. [19]
  • About 760±20 BC: a large eruption with pyroclastic flows and lava destroyed a previous forested island [19]
  • 131±20BC and 31±20 BC: carbon-14 date of seashells found buried in lava at Motoyama (see map) [19]

Witnessed Edit

  • October 1543: The first recorded sighting by Europeans, by Spanish navigator Bernardo de la Torre when trying to return from Sarangani to New Spain. Iwo Jima was charted as Sufre, the old Spanish term for sulphur.
  • 15 November 1779: Captain James Cook's surveying crew landed on a beach which by 2015 was 40 m (131 ft) above sea level due to volcanic uplifting. [12] (By then Captain Cook had died and his expedition was led by James King and John Gore.) Such uplifting occurs on the island at a varying rate of between 100 and 800 mm (3.9 and 31.5 in) per year, with an average rate of 200 mm (8 in) per year. [20]
  • Early 1945: United States armed forces landed on a beach which by 2015 was 17 metres (56 ft) above sea level due to volcanic uplift. [21]
  • 28 March 1957: A phreatic eruption occurred without warning 2 km northeast of Suribachi, lasting 65 minutes and ejecting material 30 m (100 feet) high from one crater. Another crater, 30 m (100 feet) wide and 15 m (50 feet) deep, formed by collapse 50 minutes after the eruption ended.
  • 9–10 March 1982: Five phreatic eruptions occurred from vents on the northwest shore of the island. [citation needed]
  • 21 September 2001: A submarine eruption began from three vents southeast of Iwo-jima. It built a 10 m (33 feet) diameter pyroclastic cone. [22]
  • October 2001: A small phreatic eruption at Idogahama (a beach on the northwest coast of the island) made a crater 10 m (33 feet) wide and 2–3 m deep. [22]
  • May 2012: Fumaroles, and discolored patches of seawater were seen northeast of the island, indicating further submarine activity. [22]
  • May to June 2013: Series of smaller volcanic earthquakes. [23]
  • April 2018: A number of volcanic earthquakes, high white plumes up to 700 m. [24]
  • 30 October to 5 November 2019: Volcanic quakes and subaerial eruption. [25]
  • 29 April to 5 May 2020: Subaerial eruption and volcanic plume rising up to 1 km in height. [26]
  • 8 September to 6 October 2020: Volcanic plume up to 1 km in height and a minor eruption. [27][28]

Volcanological external links Edit

Climate Edit

Iwo Jima has a tropical climate (Af) with long hot summers and warm winters with mild nights.

Climate data for Iwo Jima
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 22
Average low °C (°F) 17
Average precipitation mm (inches) 7.6
[ citation needed ]

Pre-1945 Edit

The island was first visited by a westerner in October 1543, by Spanish sailor Bernardo de la Torre on board the carrack San Juan de Letrán when trying to return from Sarangani to New Spain. [29]

In the late 16th century, the island was discovered by the Japanese. [30]

Before World War II Iwo Jima was administered as Iōjima village and was (and is today) part of Tokyo. A census in June 1943 reported an island civilian population of 1,018 (533 males, 485 females) in 192 households in six settlements. The island had a primary school, a Shinto shrine, and one police officer it was serviced by a mail ship from Haha-jima once a month, and by Nippon Yusen ship once every two months. The island's economy relied upon sulfur mining, sugarcane farming, and fishing an isolated island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with poor economic prospects, Iwo Jima had to import all rice and consumer goods from the Home Islands. [ citation needed ]

Even before the beginning of World War II, there was a garrison of the Imperial Japanese Navy at the southern part of Iwo Jima. It was off-limits to the island's civilian population, who already had little contact with the naval personnel, except for trading.

Throughout 1944, Japan conducted a massive military buildup on Iwo Jima in anticipation of a U.S. invasion. In July 1944, the island's civilian population was forcibly evacuated, and no civilians have permanently settled on the island since.

Battle of Iwo Jima Edit

The American invasion of Iwo Jima began on February 19, 1945, and continued to March 26, 1945. The battle was a major initiative of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. The Marine invasion, known as "Operation Detachment", was charged with the mission of capturing the airfields on the island for use by P-51 fighters, and rescue of damaged heavy bombers that were not able to reach their main bases at Guam and Saipan until then Japanese warplanes from there had harried U.S. bombing missions to Tokyo.

The battle was marked by some of the fiercest fighting of the War. The Imperial Japanese Army positions on the island were heavily fortified, with vast bunkers, hidden artillery, and 18 kilometres (11 mi) of tunnels. [31] [32] The battle was the first U.S. attack on the Japanese Home Islands and the Imperial soldiers defended their positions tenaciously. Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers present at the beginning of the battle, over 19,000 were killed and only 1,083 taken prisoner. [33]

One of the first objectives after landing on the beachhead was the taking of Mount Suribachi. At the second raising of a flag on the peak, Joe Rosenthal photographed five Marines and one Pharmacist Mate raising the United States flag on the fourth day of the battle (February 23).

The photograph was extremely popular, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography that same year. It is regarded as one of the most significant and recognizable images of the war. [1] [34]

After the fall of Mount Suribachi in the south, the Japanese still held a strong position throughout the island. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi still had the equivalent of eight infantry battalions, a tank regiment, two artillery, and three heavy mortar battalions, plus the 5,000 gunners and naval infantry. With the landing area secure, more troops and heavy equipment came ashore and the invasion proceeded north to capture the airfields and the remainder of the island. Most Japanese soldiers fought to the death. On the night of March 25, a 300-man Japanese force launched a final counterattack led by Kuribayashi. The island was officially declared "secured" the following morning.

According to the U.S. Navy, "The 36-day (Iwo Jima) assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead." [35] Comparatively, the 82-day Battle of Okinawa lasted from early April until mid-June 1945 and U.S. (five Army, two Marine Corps Divisions and Navy personnel on ships) casualties were over 62,000 of whom over 12,000 were killed or missing, while the Battle of the Bulge lasted 40 days (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) with almost 90,000 U.S. casualties comprising 19,000 killed, 47,500 wounded and 23,000 captured or missing.

After Iwo Jima was declared secured, about 3,000 Japanese soldiers were left alive in the island's warren of caves and tunnels. Those who could not bring themselves to commit suicide hid in the caves during the day and came out at night to prowl for provisions. Some did eventually surrender and were surprised that the Americans often received them with compassion – offering them water, cigarettes, or coffee. [36] The last of these stragglers, two of Lieutenant Toshihiko Ohno's men (Ohno's body was never found), Yamakage Kufuku and Matsudo Linsoki, lasted three and a half years, surrendering on January 6, 1949. [37] [38]

The U.S. military occupied Iwo Jima until June 26, 1968, when it was returned to Japan. [39]

Reunion of Honor Edit

On February 19, 1985, the 40th anniversary of the day that U.S. forces began the assault on the island, veterans from both forces gathered for the Reunion of Honor just a few meters/yards away from the spot where U.S. Marines had landed on the island. [40] During the memorial service a granite plaque was unveiled with the message:

On the 40th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, American and Japanese veterans met again on these same sands, this time in peace and friendship. We commemorate our comrades, living and dead, who fought here with bravery and honor, and we pray together that our sacrifices on Iwo Jima will always be remembered and never be repeated.

It is inscribed on both sides of the plaque, with the English translation facing the beaches where U.S. forces landed and the Japanese translation facing inland, where Japanese troops defended their position.

After that, the Japan–U.S. combination memorial service of the 50th anniversary was held in front of this monument in March 1995. The 55th anniversary was held in 2000, followed by a 60th reunion in March 2005 (see U.S. National Park Service photo below), and a 70th anniversary ceremony on March 21, 2015. [41]

A memorial service held on the island in 2007 got particular attention because it coincided with the release of the movie Letters from Iwo Jima. The joint U.S.–Japanese ceremony was attended by Yoshitaka Shindo, a Japanese lawmaker who is the grandson of the Japanese commander during the battle, Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, and Yasunori Nishi, the son of Colonel Baron Takeichi Nishi, the Olympic gold medalist equestrian who died commanding a tank unit on the island. [42]

Active Marines have also visited the island on occasion for Professional Military Education (PME). [43] .


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