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Image: This picture was taken by Joe Rosenthal. When the Americans soldiers reached the top of the hill, they raised the American flag to show victory. “From (left) in the Front are Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, John Bradley and Harlon Block. The back two are Michael Strank and Rene Gagnon. “Strank, Block and Sousley would die shortly afterwards. Bradley, Hayes and Gagnon became national heroes within weeks after the picture was published in the newspapers”.
A picture can tell a thousand words but this picture by Joe Rosenthal “Raising of the Flag” won a war and respect. Before this picture the world thought of America as just any other country, they were not respected as one of the elite countries in the world, basically they were not feared. In the 1940’s Japan was powerful, they were feared. But when the U.S defeated Japan and the picture taken by Joe Rosenthal was shown in the papers over the world, America become powerful and was feared. America had done something that no other country had been successful doing in the past 5,000 years, to defeat Japan on their soil. To the world this was like when Buster Douglas defeated Mike Tyson and shocked the world. Unlike like Buster Douglas who just lived off the money he made. America thrived from that victory and become one of the most powerful countries in the world. Even today they are considered the most powerful country in the world. This picture always gives credit to America but not to the soldiers who actually fought on Iwo Jima and raised the flag. When the soldiers were raising the flag, most people don’t know but they were getting shot at from the Japanese soldiers who were still hiding underground. You can imagine how important it was for the soldiers to raise the flag, they risked their life to just raise a flag. To them it might have meant more than just a flag, for some it may have meant hope, victory, and to some it might have meant the end of war. Out of the six soldiers who raised the flag three of them Strank, Block and Sousley died shortly afterwards. The other three Bradley, Hayes and Gagnon became national heroes after their picture was published in the papers.
In 1945 the U.S had declared war on Japan after the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. The U.S could not attack Japan directly, because they were on an Island. Japan was too far way for America to efficiently strike Japan with their B-29 bombers. When American planes tried to get closer to Japan they would be shot down. America could not go toe to toe with Japan so they changed their strategy. Japan was still at war with other countries, while defending their land against America. America wanted to attack something that would make it difficult for the Japanese to defend and they found the perfect place to attack Japan. Iwo Jima, a small island about 8 square miles large and 650 miles away from Tokyo on Japanese soil. Benefits of attacking Iwo Jima were that they already had 2 Japanese Airfields. The Distance was much shorter and they could refuel using the Japanese Airfields and B-29s were much more effective at that range. At that time neither country knew that a small island would decide the outcome of the war
Japanese also knew the importance of Iwo Jima. They knew that American bombers at that range would destroy them. But for Japan it was their homeland and no foreign army had been successful on Japanese soil. So they wanted to make sure America did not succeed either, they sent on their best generals. General Kuribayashi was given the assignment to defend Iwo Jima from the assault that was going to come within the days by the Americans.
Image: In this picture the U.S had sent Air attack to weaken the Japanese Defenses before the actual assault on the island
The Americans knew the Japanese were expecting them for an assault on the Iwo Jima. Before the battle itself, For 70 days the US sent in air and sea bombers to weaken the Japanese defense and make the actual assault much easier, but according to the World War Database “the massive display of fireworks merely made a small dent in the defenders' numbers”(6). The bombers had no effect on the Japanese soldiers, because they were hidden underground. Their strategy to weaken the Japanese defense before the actual assault had failed. Due to the failure U.S had to send more marines then they expected. The U.S sent 110,000 marines in 880 ships to Iwo Jima from Hawaii. This was the most marines sent by U.S for a battle, this was also one of the biggest battles the U.S had fought at the time.
Image: This picture shows the tunnels used by Japanese soldiers.
General Kuribayashi had a very unique way of defending against the assault. In most warfare’s when the attack in coming below you and you are on top. You put your machine guns and snipers on top and pick a part your enemy, but General Kuribayashi decided to fight through tunnels.” 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”. This was a great strategy as the American bombers had no effect on the assault. The Second strategy was for no Japanese survivors. When you know you are going to die you don’t fear death you embrace it. On the Iwo Jima website it says General Kuribayashi told his wife “You must not expect my survival” The Battle (3) .Their third strategy was to kill 10 Americans for each Japanese soldier. Basically they wanted to cause lot of causalities and hope the U.S would fall back and stop the assault.
Image: This was the first day of attack. U.S soldiers were being killed as they landed in open fire from the Japanese snipers
On February 19, 1945, the actual attack on the island begun. The attack began again with bombers and again they were unsuccessful. The American soldiers suffered many casualties on the first day as they landed in open fire. The volcanic ash was everywhere due to constant bombing by the Americans before and after the attack. This caused a concern as the American soldiers were target practice for Japanese snipers. While the casualties were raising high for the Americans they continued to move toward the Island. According to Peter Chen on the second day of invasion the tanks arrived, shielded by the thick armor, the American troops could finally advance under cover as they moved to the base of the mountain (12). Marines slowly started to advance toward top of the island.
Image: Marine using a flame thrower to clear out Japanese soldier from underground
The marines were eventually going to capture the island, but the Japanese soldiers were hiding under ground, the marines had to check and clear every whole before they could move up. The marines used liquid gas, napalm, and hand grenades to clear out Japanese soldiers. The American soldiers had successfully completed their assault and had taken over the Island on March 26, 1945. The Battle of Iwo Jima lasted from February 19, 1945 to March 26, 1945. In 36 days there were nearly twenty-six thousand US casualties, nearly seven thousand Americans soldiers had been killed in action. In contrast nearly all twenty two thousand Japanese soldiers that had been fighting were killed. When the American soldiers reached the top of the hill six of the soldiers decided to raise the American flag to show victory. Joe Rosenthal who was the only photographer at Iwo Jima who took the picture which would later become known as “Raising of the Flag”
This island had lot of effect on outcome of the not just the battle but the war. The Americans learned that the Japanese were smarter and stronger. The Japanese had total of 22,000 soldiers while the Americans had 110,000. It took almost 4 month to take over an island when they had the Japanese outnumbered 5 to 1. America was initially going to use B-29 bombers to attack Japan, but after what they seen Japan do at Iwo Jima they wanted to end the war fast. Instead of B-29 bombers America decided to use Atomic bombs and ended the war.
1. Bradley, John H. Iwo Jima. Web. 20 Feb. 2010. <http://www.iwojima.com/>.
2. Chen, Peter C. "Battle of Iwo Jima." World War II Database. Web. 20 Feb. 2010.
3. Lucas, Dean. "Raising The Flag On Iwo Jima." Famous Pictures. 13 Feb. 2010. Web. 20 Feb. 2010.
4. Fifth Division Marines moving inland off the beach, after coming ashore on Iwo Jima, 19 Feb 1945; note Mount Suribachi in background. Digital image. World War II Database. United States Navy Naval History and Heritage Command. Web. 20 Feb. 2010. <http://ww2db.com/image.php?image_id=338>.
5. Flame thrower in use against Japanese holding out in a cave along Iwo Jima's northern coastal cliffs, 8 April 1945. Digital image. World War II Database. United States Navy Naval History and Heritage Command. Web. 20 Feb. 2010. <http://ww2db.com/image.php?image_id=3300>.
6. Pre-invasion bombardment of Iwo Jima's west beach as seen from an American vessel, 17 Feb 1945. Digital image. World War II Database. United States Navy Naval History and Heritage Command. Web. 20 Feb. 2010. <http://ww2db.com/image.php?image_id=2699>.
7. Rosenthal, Joe. Raising the Flag. Digital image. Explore History. Library of Congress. Web. 20 Feb. 2010. <http://explorepahistory.com/displayimage.php?imgId=4139>.
8. Prizeman, Sean. Japanese Tunnel Interior on Iwo Jima. Digital image. Pacific Wrecks. Web. 22 Feb. 2010. <http://www.pacificwrecks.com/airfields/japan/iwo_jima/1995/prizeman/cave_interior.html>.