The Battle of Iwo Jima
In the early morning of 19 February 1945, United States Marines assigned to the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Division led the initial assault on the Japanese controlled island of Iwo Jima, with the objective of capturing and securing the island. This was the beginning of one of the fiercest and bloodiest; and more decisively, the most strategically important battles fought during World War II. After the dust had settled, and the smoke had cleared, the causalities and losses were astounding. 6,821 U.S. Marines along with 18,844 members of the Imperial Japanese Army had paid the ultimate sacrifice. A decisive US victory on the island of Iwo Jima later played a pivotal role in the overarching defeat of the Japanese Empire and its Armed Forces (Morison, 1945).
On 9 July 1944, 2nd Marine Division, 4th Marine Division, and 27th Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Holland Smith, defeated the 43rd Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito, capturing the Saipan (Moore, 2002), a 44.55 sq. mile island located Northern Mariana Islands, approximately 1,465 miles south of Tokyo, Japan. The capture of Saipan was strategically important for U.S. and Allied Forces, as it was logistically relevant, due to its location from Tokyo. "It was the decisive battle of the Pacific offensive [...] it opened the way to the Japanese home islands (Nalty, Shaw, & Turnbladh, 1966)." By November 1944, U.S. B29 bombers had commenced bombing operations on the Japanese capital city, Tokyo, from airfields located on the U.S. control island of Saipan.
After the fall of Saipan, Imperial Japanese Army and Naval forces were deployed to the island of Iwo Jima; a very small island, approximately 8 sq. miles in circumference, located within the Japanese Volcano Island Chain. The island is located approximately 750 miles south of the Japanese capital of Tokyo. Due to its location, Japanese forces stationed on Iwo Jima began conducting offensive operations against U.S. forces stationed on the U.S. controlled island of Saipan. Additionally, Japanese fighter planes were easily intercepting and destroying U.S. B29 bombers en-route to Tokyo. Moreover, Iwo Jima operated as an early warning center for Tokyo; warning Japanese forces stationed in Tokyo of impending U.S. led bombing operations (Moore, 2002).
Despite its size, Iwo Jima’s location was both tactically and strategically significant for the defense of mainland Japan. By June 1944, approximately 22,000 Imperial troops, under the command of Lieutenant-General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, were deployed to defend Iwo Jima from any enemy attempts to capture the island. Fully aware that the task of defensing Iwo Jima was impossible, Kuribayashi focused on inflicting mass causalities on U.S. and Allied forces, in an attempt to deter an invasion on the Japanese main lands. There were two Japanese controlled airfields located in Iwo Jima, where both offensive and...