The Battle of Iwo Jima (19 February – 26 March 1945) was a major battle in which the United States Marine Corps and Navy landed on and eventually captured the island of Iwo Jima from the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during World War II.
Lying roughly halfway between American Army Airforce bases in the Mariana Islands and the Japanese islands, the military base on Iwo Jima gave the Japanese an ability to send early air raid warnings to the Japanese mainland and launch fighters from its airfields to intercept raids.
The American invasion, designated Operation Detachment, had the purpose of capturing the island with its two airfields: South Field and Central Field.
The strategic objectives were twofold: the first was to provide an emergency landing strip for battle-damaged B-29s unable to make it back to US air bases in the Marianas Tinian, Saipan, Guam. The second was to provide air fields for fighter escorts, long-range P-51s, to provide fighter coverage to the bombers.
The five-week battle saw some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the Pacific War.
The IJA positions on the island were heavily fortified, with a dense network of bunkers, hidden artillery positions, and 18 km (11 mi) of tunnels.
The American ground forces were supported by extensive naval artillery, and had complete air supremacy provided by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviators throughout the battle.
Japanese combat deaths numbered three times the number of American deaths although, uniquely among Pacific War Marine battles, American total casualties (dead and wounded) exceeded those of the Japanese.
Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima at the beginning of the battle, only 216 were taken prisoner, some of whom were captured because they had been knocked unconscious or otherwise disabled.
The majority of the remainder were killed in action, although it has been estimated that as many as 3,000 continued to resist within the various cave systems for many days afterwards, eventually succumbing to their injuries or surrendering weeks later.
Joe Rosenthal’s Associated Press photograph of the raising of the U.S.
flag on top of the 169 m (554 ft) Mount Suribachi by six U.S. Marines became an iconic image of the battle and the American war effort in the Pacific