The island of Iwo Jima is just five miles long and two and a half miles wide. It lies 625 miles north of Saipan and 660 miles south of Tokyo.

The word Iwo Jima translates to Sulfur Island. At its southern tip lies an extinct 556-foot high volcano, Mt. Suribachi.

Iwo Jima stands as the bloodiest offensive ever carried out by the United States Marines. A convoy of 880 U.S. ships sailed from the Naval Base in Hawaii to Iwo Jima in 40 days. Later, this island was used as an Air Force launching base for offensives carried out on the mainland of Japan.

An estimated 21,000 Japanese troops were not expected. The U.S. Air Force pounded the island more than any other single air offensive in history. "No other island received as much preliminary pounding as did Iwo Jima."(Admiral Nimitz, CINCPAC)

An approximated 110,000 U.S. soldiers poured into the tiny island. On February 19, 1945, the attack began. The Military believed that the assault would be quick and victorious. It turned into a 36-day engagement that would see more Marine deaths than anywhere else.

The Battle ended on March 25, 1945. The U.S. was the victor.


Battle stats:

  • American
  • Wounded: 18,000
  • Dead: 6,000
  • Missing: 500

  • Japanese
  • Dead: 20,000
  • Captured: 1,000
  • 硫黄島

    Iô Jima is one of the many islands of Japan.

    FUN LINGUISTIC FACT: Iwo Jima is officially referred to as Iô Tô (both words rhyme with "toe") in Japanese. The name "Iwo Jima" was applied by Americans: the "w" is an artifact from the wacky prewar Japanese writing system, and the use of "jima" instead of "tô" is a transliteration error similar to calling Mount Fuji "Fujiyama" when it should be called "Fuji-san." The thing is, the American usage became so common that it started to eclipse the Japanese usage, until the Geographic Society officially decided in 2007 that "Iô Tô" should be the name used on maps.
    It gets its name, "Sulfur Island," from the fact that it is covered with sulfur springs. The island would be prime onsen resort territory, if the sulfur springs weren't also boiling hot.

    Iwo is in the Volcano Islands (Kazan Shoto), which include the smaller islands of Kita (North) Iwo Jima and Minami (South) Iwo Jima. The Kazans are located at the southern end of the Bonin Islands, adjacent to the Mariana Islands, which were a part of the United States back in World War II.

    But there's much more history to the island than the GI's planting that flag in some stinky dirt. Captain Cook sighted Iwo Jima way back in 1784, before the Japanese (or, as far as we can tell, anyone) even knew that the island existed. The island sat, uninhabited, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for centuries until it became part of Japan in 1891. Back in that century, it appeared to be an ideal fueling stop for steamships traveling from California to China, which, in case you didn't know, is why we had the opening of Japan in the first place. Eventually, fishermen began migrating to the Bonins, and in the early 1900's, ships began to stop at Iwo Jima every other month. By 1941, Iwo Jima had a thriving population of 1,000.

    During the war, of course, the Japanese Empire sent thousands of soldiers to Iwo Jima in airplanes and ships, beginning just before the fall of Saipan in 1944, and continuing up to the American invasion in 1945.

    After the war was over, Japan got to keep Iwo Jima. There wasn't much on the island that the Americans really wanted: all that's left is the three airfields that were constructed there during the war. American troops managed to find two interesting artifacts of the battle in 1949: Japanese soldiers, previously MIA.

    It is possible to travel to Iwo Jima today, although there aren't any scheduled flights to the island and only a very miniscule local population resides there. Go to www.miltours.com to find out how to get there. The island is still covered with machine guns, rockets, and cannon, all over half a century old: great stuff to look at, but you may have trouble bringing it back with you.

    Five hundred veterans of Iwo Jima, from both sides, returned forty years after their epic battle, and left the following plaque on the island in both English and Japanese:

    REUNION OF HONOR

    ON THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF IWO JIMA, AMERICAN AND JAPANESE VETERANS MET AGAIN ON THESE SAME SANDS, THIS TIME IN PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP.

    WE COMMEMORATE OUR COMRADES, LIVING AND DEAD, WHO FOUGHT HERE WITH BRAVERY AND HONOR, AND WE PRAY TOGETHER THAT OUR SACRIFICES ON IWO JIMA, WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED AND NEVER BE REPEATED.

    FEBRUARY 19, 1985

    3RD, 4TH, 5TH DIVISION ASSOCIATIONS USMC
    AND
    THE ASSOCIATION OF IWO JIMA

    Yet again, somebody had the guts to say Rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the mistake. As more than one veteran said, "The true heroes of Iwo Jima were the guys who didn't come back."

    http://www.iwojima.com/ - http://www.iwojima.jp/

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