Friday, January 18, 2008

Iwo Jima

The picture that makes up my banner is the flag raising on the Mt. Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima. Suffering more casualties than on D-Day, Iwo Jima was one of the greatest battles fought in WWII. Iwo Jima is a small island south of the Japanese islands that provided a landing strip and radar for Japanese fighter planes. The few civilians that lived on the island were evacuated before the battle and therefore was mainly a military base. The Japanese were expecting an attack, but realized that the island could not be saved. Therefore the defense of Iwo Jima was mostly used to delay the Americans as they pushed toward the Japanese homeland.

The U.S. decided that Iwo Jima was important because the proximity of the island to Japan would allow escort fighters to accompany bombers to Japan. After dropping thousands upon thousands of pounds of shells upon the tiny island, the US decided the time for attack was at hand. Little did they realize that due to massive underground tunneling, the Japanese defenses had suffered very little damage.

After a very quiet landing, the marines suddenly faced a nearly invisible enemy who fired from pillboxes and tunnels. The beach was made of a very fine black sand that made it very difficult to more, which caused the troops to bunch up. Eventually they made it off the beach and pushed north toward Mt. Suribachi, the highest point of land on the island. It was on top of that mountain that the above picture was taken.

After 35 days of fighting, the Americans declared the island secure, although an estimated 3,000 Japanese soldiers were still hidden underground. Some of the soldiers surrendered although the majority committed suicide. The last soldier to surrender had hidden in the tunnels for 6 years and finally surrendered in 1951.

Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers that fought on Iwo Jima, only 216 were captured/survived. The rest died in battle or committed suicide. The U.S. lost over 6,000 dead and over 19,000 wounded, making Iwo Jima one of the costliest battles during the entire war.

May we never forget the sacrifice and bravery of those who died for their country.

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