Iwo Jima was Japan's "eye." The reason was that the island was a warning beacon for approaching bombers that were about to bomb Tokyo. Japanese saw the importance of the island, and turned the rocky, volcanic and non-vegetation island into a war fortress.
Underground strongholds, fortified caves and blockhouses protected Iwo Jima from a possible attack. Artillary and machine guns were set up all over the island. The Japanese also planted countless mines all over the beaches of the island. Three airfields were on the island as well. On top of this, 23,000 men under Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi were stationed on the island.
Americans found the island a wanted treasure. Saipan, Tinian, and Guam(Marianas Islands) were the closest American occupied islands from Tokyo. They were about 1300 miles from Tokyo, which meant a B-29 bomber took a 16 hour round trip mission only to find itself minutes from running out of fuel. The island was a must-have for Americans. The island would provide fuel for bombers, and would be a resort for damaged planes.
The United States gave Iwo Jima everything it had to offer. The U.S. "softened up" the island by 74 days of bombings. On February 1, 1945, every plane in the Pacific was assigned to Iwo Jima. About two weeks later, huge shells wreaked havok on the island from six battleships, cruisers and destroyers that were slowly closing in on the island. Little did the Americans know that the Japanese were safely secure in the caves and blockhouses.
On the morning of February 19, 1945, 30,000 marines under Major General Harry Schmidt joined the warships in their effort. They were inside amphibious landing craft. They formed a straight line heading for the shore, but then turned one after another when they were close to the beach. They did this until they were all parallel with the beach. When they were parallel, they turned again and made a mad dash for the beach.
When they were on the island, they were confronted with ankle deep volcanic ash and bullets from unknown positions. Every advance costed many americans their lives. However, with the huge death toll, the Americans managed to run a perimeter of 4500 by 500 yards. The marines then had to fight upwards over hills and other land barriers. During the first two days of Iwo Jima 3,650 soldiers were killed; however, the U.S. now controlled about 1/3 of the island.
For the next three days the marines attempted to take Motoyama No. 2, which was an airfield. The marines destroyed 800 pill boxes with bazookas, grenades, flame throwers, and guns. The marines won the airfield, but casualties were now at 5,000.
The next day they found themselves being bombarded by gunshells and bombs on Mt. Suribachi. The marines were reinforced, however, so there were now three different divisions on the island. The Americans now had control of half the island.
The 28th regiment marines went up the mountain. Then on February 23, 1945, a flag-bearing patrol shoved the flag into the mountain. Photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the picture. Only two of the five men in the picture survived to tell about it. The effort payed off because Mt. Suribachi was captured, but it took 26 days. Iwo Jima was officially taken over on March 15, 1945.
The Americans suffered 20,196 casualties with 4,189 killed. Over 21,000 Japanese were killed. Some were wounded and only a meager 200 were taken prisoner. Japanese would rather die than surrender. The Battle of Iwo Jima was officially over.