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Anonymous - Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima
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542003 : 4
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About this Piece
The Japanese island of Iwo Jima lies 650 miles from Tokyo, midway between Japan and the key American bomber bases in the Pacific. As the Second World War drew to its conclusion, Iwo Jima therefore was of enormous strategic importance both to Japan and to America.

Iwo Jima was guarded by approximately 21,000 Japanese troops, secured within a network of underground fortresses. Against these heavily-defended forces, the US sent a convoy of 880 ships and 110,000 Marines from Hawaii. So strong were the Japanese defences that the extensive aerial attacks launched by the US Air Force prior to the main assault had very little effect.

D-Day fell on 19th February 1945. The assault began at approximately 2.00am with a further bombardment from the US Navy and Air Force before the first wave of Marines was sent ashore at 8:30am. Landing was exceptionally difficult on account of the loose volcanic ash of the island, which made it very difficult to dig foxholes and thus exposed the Marines to exceptionally heavy defensive fire.

The subsequent battle for Iwo Jima lasted for 36 days, with the defending Japanese fighting from their underground bases to such an extent that many US Marines on the island rarely saw a Japanese soldier at all. Without front lines the battle for the island had to be won inch by inch.

The island was dominated by Mount Suribochi, the 550ft volcanic cone on the southern tip controlled entirely by Japanese gunners and heavy weaponry. This famous photograph was taken on the summit of Mount Suribochi as Easy Company, which suffered 75% casualties during the battle for Iwo Jima, finally raised the American flag over the island.

Taken by Gerry Rosenthal, six flag-raisers are shown in the photograph: Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, John Bradley and Harlon Block (front four, left to right), and Michael Strank and Rene Gagnon (back two, left to right). Strank, Block and Sousley all died shortly after the flag-raising, but Hayes, Bradley and Gagnon became national heroes. The release of the photograph caused a sensation in the United States and, within two days of it first being seen, the US Senate called for a national monument to be created, modelled on the picture. The resulting statue was dedicated by President Eisenhower on 10th November 1954.