American air forces pounded Iwo in the longest sustained aerial offensive of the war.
"No other island received as much preliminary pounding as did Iwo Jima."
. . . Admiral Nimitz, CINPAC
Incredibly, this ferocious bombardment had little effect. Hardly any of the Japanese underground fortresses were touched.
Twenty-one thousand defenders of Japanese soil, burrowed in the volcanic rock of Iwo Jima, anxiously awaited the American invaders.
The Japanese strategy was unique for three reasons:
1. The Japanese didn't fight above ground. They fought the battle entirely from beneath the ground. They dug 1,500 rooms into the rock. These were connected with 16 miles of tunnels.
2. Japanese strategy called for "no Japanese survivors." They planned not to survive.
3. Japanese strategy was for each soldier to kill 10 Americans before they themselves are killed.
In Tokyo months before the invasion, General Kuribayashi had been told "if America's casualties are high enough, Washington will think twice before launching an another invasion against Japanese territory."
The Japanese strategy of "no Japanese survivors" is heroic Japanese stance is commonly glorified in Japanese historical novels, plays and movies. It touches at the heart of the Japanese sense of sacrifice of the individual for the greater good.
"You must not expect my survival," General Kuribayashi wrote to his wife long before the invasion came.
Historians described U.S. forces' attack against the Japanese defense as "throwing human flesh against reinforced concrete."
There were no front lines. The Marines were above ground and the Japanese were below them underground. The Marines rarely saw an alive Japanese soldier. The Japanese could see the Marines perfectly.
With the landing area secure, more Marines and heavy equipment came ashore and the invasion proceeded north to capture the airfields and the remainder of the island. With their customary bravery, most Japanese soldiers fought to the death. Of the 21,000 defenders, only 1,000 were taken prisoner.
The Allied forces suffered 25,000 casualties, with nearly 7,000 dead. Over 1/4 of the Medals of Honor awarded to marines in World War II were given for conduct in the invasion of Iwo Jima.
Dan van der Vat commented about the operation:
"If the capture of Iwo Jima was necessary, some Americans surely had to suffer and die. But casualties need not have amounted to 30 percent among the landing forces, to no less than 75 percent in the infantry units of the Fourth and Fifth Marine divisions, to 4,900 killed on the island, and 1,900 missing or deceased later from wounds, and to 19,200 wounded American survivors."
In sum, Iwo Jima saw the only major battle in the entire Pacific Campaign where American casualties surpassed the Japanese dead. All the lives lost, on both sides of the battle, for ten square miles; for that very reason, Admiral Richmond Turner was criticized by American press for wasting the lives of his men. However, by war's end, Iwo Jima sure appeared to have saved many Americans, too. 2,400 B-29 landings took place at Iwo Jima, many were under emergency conditions that might otherwise meant a crash at sea.
Tags: World, war, 2, Japan, empire, axis, USA, marines, naval, fleet, invasion, conflict, volcanic, ash, allies, napalm, flamethrowers, bombardment, truth, b29
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