Today, Feb. 19, marks the 75th anniversary of the landing of U.S. Marines on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima on this date in 1945.
The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest battles of World War II and was crucial to the ongoing bombing campaign on the Japanese homeland and for the use as a staging area for a possible invasion of the Japanese main islands.
Among the highlights of the battle were the two flags raised on top of Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945. The second one raised was photographed by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, which won the Pulitzer Prize for photography. A third flag was raised by March 14, 1945, at Kitano Point at the northern end of the island by two Marines.
Iwo Jima, which was part of the Volcano Islands, was also an early warning station for incoming American bombers heading for Japan, which enabled the Japanese Air Force to be ready for the U.S. Air Force.
Total American casualties were 26,040 (6,821 killed and 19,217 wounded) and Japanese between 17,845 and 18,375 (dead and missing). Only 216 Japanese soldiers were captured.
The Japanese were well-prepared for the invasion with in-depth defenses that were mutually supportive, including hidden heavy machine guns and artillery, as well as deadly mortar positions and land mines. There were also tunnels linking the mountains on the island.
The entire battle included 450 Navy ships offshore, 60,000 Marines and 3,000 Navy Seabees who rebuilt the air fields. The Navy also provided hospital corpsmen who went into battle with the Marines to provide first aid.
Throughout the campaign, flamethrowers and hand grenades were instrumental in rooting the defenders out of their caves and tunnels.
Marines also faced nighttime attacks, hand-to-hand combat, and toward the end of the campaign, suicidal banzai attacks.
The Navy faced a kamikaze air attack on Feb. 21, which sank the USS Bismark, severely damaged USS Saratoga and slightly damaged the USS Lunga Point, an LST and a transport.
Also, 27 Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines and Sailors (14 of them posthumously). Iwo Jima was finally declared secured at 9 a.m. on March 26, 1945.
Remember the Battle of Iwo Jima today and all our World War II veterans.