U.S. Marines Land on Iwo Jima

U.S. #929 was controversial when it was released because it pictured living people. But it went on to become very popular.

On February 19, 1945, the Battle of Iwo Jima began.

By early 1945, Japan had lost most of its empire and faced certain defeat, but its soldiers continued to fight. To make their Pacific campaign successful, the Allies needed more bases. In particular, they needed a place where their damaged B-29 bombers could land and be repaired without having to travel all the way to the Mariana Islands. A tiny island approximately 750 miles south of Japan became their primary target – Iwo Jima. At the time, Iwo Jima was occupied by about 21,000 Japanese army and navy troops.

Eight months before the actual invasion, American ships and aircraft began bombing Iwo Jima in the longest and most intense bombardment of the Pacific theater. Many suspected the Japanese on the island to be largely wiped out, but a secret tunnel system had kept them safe.

Item #20008 – Raymond Spruance was the overall commander of the Iwo Jima invasion.

Then at 8:59 a.m. (one minute ahead of schedule) on February 19, 1945, the battle began when the 3rd, 4th, and 5th U.S. Marine divisions landed on Iwo Jima. The Japanese had prepared elaborate mine fields and underground tunnels, and a remarkable communications system for the island’s defense. The fight for Iwo Jima proved to be one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Item #CNM11274 – According to 5th Marine Division signal officer, Major Howard Connor, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

As the Marines crossed the beach they came under heavy mortar and rifle fire, and soon found they couldn’t even construct foxholes in the soft black volcanic sand. As the Marines moved forward, the Japanese opened fire from their steel-doored tunnels and then quickly closed the doors to avoid the return fire. Even after the Americans cleared tunnels with flamethrowers, the Japanese would reoccupy them and launch a surprise attack from an area believed to be clear.

By the end of the first day, some 30,000 Marines landed, and would later be joined by another 40,000. The battle raged for several days, with the Japanese launching sneak attacks at night. The Sherman M4A3R3 tanks, equipped with flamethrowers, helped to clear Japanese positions. Navajo Code Talkers – bilingual Navajo recruits that sent messages in their native tongue – sent and received over 800 messages in the first two days. They were immensely helpful in keeping the lines of communication open across the front. Eventually, the Japanese ran out of food, water, and supplies, and their attacks grew desperate.

U.S. #2981a – From the WWII stamp series marking the 50th anniversary of the war’s end.

On February 23rd, after five days of intense combat, the Marines captured Mt. Suribachi and hoisted the Stars and Stripes. A Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of this moment has become one of the most famous images of the war, and served as the model for the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. After 36 days of fierce fighting, the Japanese surrendered on March 16th – nearly 7,000 Americans lost their lives and about 19,000 more were injured.

 Item #571545 – Commemorative cover marking the 61st anniversary of the flag raising at Iwo Jima.
Item #571545 – Commemorative cover marking the 61st anniversary of the flag raising at Iwo Jima.

A strategic location for the U.S. in the last stages of the war, Iwo Jima served as a base for the P-51 Mustangs that escorted the formidable B-29s on their bombing raids, as well as an emergency landing airstrip.

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  1. A magnificent performance, once again, by America’s greatest generation. Before the siege was over most of the marines in the original photograph were killed. Thank you to them and 70,000 more marines for their dedication to duty.

  2. This was one of the great battles in the Pacific. I was hit in Germany on February 6, 1945. After the
    War I rented an apartment from a lady that lost her son in this battle. I believe I was able to help her
    with this loss She was happy and living live when I left the apartment. God Bless all these mothers.

  3. Of the six men who raised the flag on Mt. Suribachi, three died in the next few weeks, but three survived and were transported back to the states to help raise funds for the war effort. Five of the flag raisers were Marines and one was a Navy medic. One of the survivors was Corporal Ira Hayes, was a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes died at age 32 in 1955 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Another survivor, Navy Corpsman, John Bradley, lived to the age of 70. After his death, his son James Bradley, wrote “Flags of Our Fathers (2000),” which tells the story of the six flag raisers.

    1. Thanks for mentioning Ira Hayes in your comment. I intended to chide Mystic’s historian for leaving him out. I am part Seneca and always remember Ira Hayes when I go to Arlington. His grave is in an isolated area and doesn’t mention his role at Iwo Jima.

  4. Some history about Iwo Jima, Lee Marvin of movie fame was on Iwo , he was a sniper for the marines, He got shot in his buttox. Capitan Kangaroo(Srg Bob Kershaw) was a squad leader. Mr. Rogers wore a sweater all the time because his body was covered with tattoos( He was a Navy Frog Man ) They swam without air tanks. The sweater protected him from the children on his TV show seeing all the tattoos.
    One of my Uncles was a Navy Seabee, and he brought me a copy ,a real photograph, Of the raising the U.S. flag on Suribachi, which was filmed bt Joe Rosenthal, and he won the Pulitzer

    1. Hardly any of this is true… Lee Marvin was wounded at Saipan, not Iwo Jima. Bob Kershaw (Captain Kangaroo) joined the Marines but was still in Boot Camp when WWII officially ended (he never saw any combat, nor was he a squad mate of Lee Marvin). Fred Rogers (Mr Rogers) was a Presbyterian Minister, a man of peace and who would tell you he loved you even though you got his history completely wrong. He, never served a day in the military and had no tattoos (however, there is a famous Vietnam sniper who kind of sort of looks a little like Fred Rogers – if you squint real hard). Mr Rogers wore sweaters because they were comfortable and because children found them to be non threatening (probably, I made that last part up, but it fits his character). Seriously though, he changed from his jacket to his sweater to show that he was transitioning from his normal self into this “magical” TV character who’s show involved stories, trips to interesting places, and puppets (interestingly, Michael Keaton’s first TV gig was as a puppeteer on Mr Rogers).

  5. Three of the flag raisers died in the battle for Iwo Jima. They were: Harlon Block (20) from Texas, Franklin Sousley (19) from Kentucky, and Michael Strank (25) born in Czechoslovakia and raised in Pennsylvania. The survivors were: John Bradley (20, lived to 70) from Wisconsin, Rene Gagnon (19, lived to 54) from New Hampshire, and Ira Hayes (21, lived to 32) from Arizona. Thousands and thousands of other young Americans died on Iwo Jima and in every theater of the war, but most of their names are only remembered by their families.

  6. The returning members of the Navajo Nation were treated with disrespect, as were Afro-Americans, and Japanese Americans. Only because they were not the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, (WASP). Such is true today, to a certain extent. Just this evening, I was watching an ABC News Special Program, concerning the Japanese-American heroic rescue of the Anglo-Americans trapped in France, against German resistance. It also covered Hispanic and Black Americans. The show is called “FACism”, and narrated by ABC News anchor, David Ono.

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