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FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS

About The Battle Of Iwo Jima
"…Iwo lay on a direct line between the Marianas and Japan, and the Japanese on the island could give advance warning of the bombers' approach. The enemy would then put up massive antiaircraft barrages and ‘stack' fighter planes high in the sky, waiting to pounce on the B-29s. If the fighters could not shoot down a B-29, then they would try to ram it.” Robert Leckie, The Battle for Iwo Jima

"Crippled American planes trying to get home were easy targets for enemy pilots lurking in the skies around Iwo, and bombers based there made almost nightly harassing raids on Saipan's airfields.” Bill D. Ross, Iwo Jima: Legacy of Valor

The Battle of Iwo Jima was conceived by the Allied forces as a necessary step in the Pacific war towards the defeat of Japan. The Allies had been running daily bombing raids on Japan from the Marianas Islands; Iwo Jima, controlled by the Japanese, served as an early warning station, radioing reports back to mainland Japan. When the Allied bombers reached Japan, anti-aircraft defenses were waiting. In addition, Iwo Jima served as an air base – Japanese forces were taking down Allied bombers en route to targets on mainland Japan and returning from their raids. If the Allied bombing raids were to continue, the threat of Iwo Jima had to be neutralized. Although the Allies were primarily looking at other strategic targets – particularly Okinawa – it seemed that those invasions would be months away and Iwo Jima provided a more immediate target. Iwo Jima became the first battle fought on Japanese territory during WWII.

The United States began an intense air and naval assault on the 22,000 troops that defended the island on February 16, 1945. Three days later, the Americans invaded. 

In the fight for the island, the first step was to capture the island's high point: Mount Suribachi, a 546-foot mountain in the south of the island. As they landed on the invasion beach, the 30,000 troops took heavy fire as they surrounded the hill. (40,000 more Marines would follow in the coming days). The fight for the hill was tough, but by February 23, the Marines had taken Suribachi and planted the flag (twice). 

Over the next 31 days, the United States and Japan remained locked in battle for the island. Marines headed north to capture the airfields; Japanese troops fought to the death to maintain control. By March 26, the battle had become a costly one, especially for Japan. Out of roughly 22,000 soldiers, only 1,083 survived; 6,821 Americans also lost their lives, among them three of the flag-raisers (Sgt. Michael Strank, Harlon Block, and Franklin Sousley). 20,000 Americans were wounded in the battle.

27 Medals of Honor were awarded for conduct in the invasion of Iwo Jima – the largest number in history for any single battle and more than one-quarter of all those awarded during WWII.

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