Sunday, February 23, 2020

Hell on Earth

Aerial view of Iwo Jima in 2014
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Trevor Welsh
From the 19th of February to the 26th of March, 1945, 110,000 U.S. troops fought against approximately 20,000 heavily dug-in Japanese troops to seize the island of Iwo Jima. It was thought that the island could be used to stage air raids against the Japanese mainland, roughly 800 miles away. That did not happen, though the island did save many an airman who would have otherwise been lost as damaged B-29s were able to land there after it was captured.

United States strength:*
  • 110,000 Marines, Soldiers, Corpsmen, Seabees, USAAF personnel, and others
  • 500+ ships
Japanese Strength:*
  • 20,530–21,060 troops
  • 23 tanks
  • 438 artillery pieces
  • 33 naval guns
  • 69 anti-tank guns
  • ~300 anti-aircraft guns

The cost was high.

United States casualties:*
  • 6,821 killed
  • 2 captured but recovered
  • 19,217 wounded
  • 26,040 total casualties
  • 1 escort carrier sunk
  • 1 fleet carrier severely damaged
  • 1 escort carrier lightly damaged
  • 137 tanks destroyed
Japanese casualties:*
  • 17,845–18,375 dead and missing
  • 216 taken prisoner
  • ~3,000 in hiding
The last two survivors of the Japanese garrison surrendered in 1949, four years after the end of the war.

Brave men on both sides, a fight to the death.

"Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue."
- Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz

Remember them...

* Source


  1. In the two towns immediately to our North of "Chez Sarge" lived and practiced two dentists who were in the same tent on Iwo as the photographer. They each had a signed copy of that iconic photo hanging on the wall of the waiting rooms. Old Guns

    1. Wow, shared a tent with Joe Rosenthal and got signed copies of that iconic photo, what are the odds of them winding up in our little neck of the woods?

      Great story Guns.

    2. A lot more chance than in the big cities. As little neck of the woods areas contributed more volunteers than voluntolds.

  2. so much blood, so much valor in such a small area - only about 5000 acres. It's amazing how much violence (from both sides) can be brought to bear on such a small speck of land. An amazing amount of ordnance was dropped on Iwo prior to the Marine landings, such that many thought the landings would be virtually unopposed, especially after the intense naval bombardment that followed the AAF campaign. Iwo, and Okinawa after it, did a lot to convince our National Command Authority that our atomic option would be the best way to ultimately save lives on both sides.

    1. Pre-invasion bombardments can only do so much, as many Americans learned the hard way in the Pacific.

      Those bombs saved a lot of lives, American AND Japanese. That's the bottom line.

    2. Only those who didn't live through the Island Hopping campaign would believe bombs and other ordnance would allow a walk on the beach. Everywhere else in the Pacific wasn't. Pessimism in planning was the only way to do it, and even then, the pessimists were overly optimistic.

      Fighting entrenched Japanese, basically a return to, well, trench warfare in a jungle or island environment? Expect WWI levels of casualties. If the Germans on the Western Front fought as fiercely, well, we might have made it off the beaches of Normandy after 3-4 days. Omaha Beach across the whole landing zone. And then the Bocage would have been much more of a deathtrap than it was.

      There is no fun at all in fighting people who have no give-up to give.

    3. Roger that, wasn't any quit in the Japanese soldier.

    4. (Don McCollor)...and on the small Pacific islands, there were limited options where to land and no room to maneuver, like assaulting a fortress in the sea...

    5. really really should have stepped over this one and for that matter all of them. What we know now ....We didn't need any of them. The submarines blockading the islands of Japan would have reduced them to starvation given time and nobody cares about a starving Jap. For those who hate those words, think cremation and incineration. Yeah, we did that.

    6. You've got a point there Cap'n.

  3. Sure looks like a beautiful tropical island now, doesn't it?

    1. Most of the Island Hopping islands look nice... now. At Kwajalein they literally stopped the naval bombardment when the rounds from one side of the island started landing in the water on the other side, as they were basically point-blank firing with battleship cannon. Islands that were covered for the most part were stripped bare, for the most part, as any tree or anything sticking above the ground was a potential sniper nest. Not uncommon to hit the top of a coconut palm and have it explode from whatever the occupant of the tree was carrying.

      Ugly ugly fighting.

      But the islands look so peaceful now. Once the US basically shoved all the metal scrap off one end of the islands and resurfaced the rest by filling in craters. And covering up, after burning for days or weeks with avgas, any particularly stubborn strong point.

      I hear that the jungles of Vietnam are quite beautiful, too. Now.

    2. Beans - Speaking from experience, Okinawa is very lovely now. Wasn't even remotely so in spring 1945.

      High explosive and napalm tend to make things ugly. For humans and plant life.

  4. It was such a hard-fight that a movie made about it was one of the two movies John Wayne's character died in. And that's not making light of the struggle.

    Black sand, sticky slick black sand. Unlike anything the US trained on, even more weird and nasty than the black sand beaches of the Hawaiian islands.

    Besides providing a safe base for emergency landings for B-29s in trouble, Iwo also allowed for effective fighter escort. Once they reflattened and resurfaced the land.

    Nasty fight. Nasty war.

    1. The Pacific war is attracting more of my time these days. After re-watching The Pacific mini-series on HBO, that whole theater was nasty.

    2. My Dad was a SeaBee in the Pacific for the entire duration. He used to joke the SeaBees went in right after the Marines so they could get the place ready for the Army. Some things he'd talk about, and others he'd clam up. Just stop talking to me, and sit there like he was someplace else.

      I never understood it until I got older, and had good friends who served. Then with working around all the WWII, Korean War, Viet Nam, and Desert Storm vets on the Iowa, I finally "got it".

      War is Hell, and once you've been to war, you might not care to talk about it to "others".

    3. Iwo Jima was the only landing where Seabees landed in the first wave.

    4. Did not know that, thanks Chaps.

  5. I had the honor of visiting that island for the 2016 Reunion of Honor. Other than the IJF air base there is nothing there. Not a hotel, not restaurant, not a water fountain. Nothing but desolation, ruins, and heroism in the air so think you could taste it. It's not often you go on a trip that includes Hawaii and Hawaii isn't the highlight. For me, Iwo was the highlight of a tour that included Pearl Harbor, Guam, Tinian, and Saipan.


    1. I remember your trip, especially Tinian.

      What you did recently, well done.

  6. I was priviliged to hear to veterans of Iwo yesterday. And one said early on there was an air battle with the Japanese planes there. I was a bit confused about the number of airfields there - the prize of both sides. Some say 3; others 2 but I think the 3rd was under construction.

    In researching this, what was eerie to me was the Marine Cameraman - who took so many of the motion pictures, Wm Gnaust, is still there - in one of the caves. He heard what he thought was the plea of a Marine in there and the Japanese killed him. The Marines bulldozed the entrance to prevent the Japanese from escaping.

    I would like to go there one of these days.

    1. Bill Genaust's film of the second flag raising on Iwo should have the fame of Rosenthal's photo.

      He is remembered...

  7. "hear 2" - wish I could edit these...

    1. Yeah, that would be nice, wouldn't it. Not that I EVER need to edit one of my comments !;-)

    2. William - I've asked Blogger for that, as have others. Not going to happen anytime soon. But hey, it's free, who am I to complain?

    3. Ah, the time's I've deleted a comment in order to fix it. I can do that without a trace, others can't.

      It would be nice to have an edit capability for comments.

  8. Admiral Nimitz's quotation is prominently stenciled on the bulkhead with the entry hatch to the MARDET quarters on the Iowa.

    Truly brave men. The few I've met who were there would rather not talk about it.

    1. And that's how you can tell that they truly were there...


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