We heard Tokyo Rose come on the radio on the ships going over, saying we’d probably take the island, but our shirts would be red before we got through, red with blood.
- John Huffhines, 2005 interview
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. The American invasion, designated Operation Detachment, had the purpose of capturing the island with its two airfields: South Field and Central Field.
The Japanese Army 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. The five-week battle saw some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the Pacific War.
The Japanese combat deaths numbered three times the number of American deaths, but uniquely among Pacific War Marine battles, the 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 only because they had been knocked unconscious or otherwise disabled. Most of the remainder were killed in action, but it has been estimated that as many as 3,000 continued to resist within the various cave systems for many days afterwards until they eventually succumbed to their injuries or surrendered weeks later.
Despite the bloody fighting and severe casualties on both sides, the American victory was assured from the start. Overwhelming American superiority in numbers and arms as well as complete air supremacy—coupled with the impossibility of Japanese retreat or reinforcement, as well as sparse food and supplies—permitted no plausible circumstance in which the Japanese could have ultimately won the battle.
Joe Rosenthal's Associated Press photograph of the raising of the U.S. flag at the 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.
The cost in Iwo Jima battle casualties.
An incredible resource listing the names and units of 6,035 Marine Corps and Navy men killed on Iwo Jima is available here.
A grand total of 6,821 men were killed in action and 19,217 were wounded in action. Another 2,648 dealt with battle fatigue.
Approximately 1,275 officers and enlisted men were evacuated sick from their units; approximately 1,075 returned to duty in the target area. Of those permanently evacuated, 125 were classified as combat fatigue and psycho-neurosis cases; the remainder were for severe gastric and respiratory disorders.
Two hundred fifty-eight officers and enlisted men received a second wound; nine received a third wound. Fifty-five of these died as a result of the second or third wound.
Twenty-six officers and enlisted men received injuries, four of whom died, not the direct result of enemy action.
Seventy percent of the battle casualties occurred in the infantry regiments, including their replacements.
The Spearhead: The World War II History of the 5th Marine Division by Howard Conner