Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Where Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue

This latest post is a work in process:

Where Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue…
…..Admiral Nimitz
Location & Date:
Suribachi Yama
Island of Iwo Jima February 24nd, 1945

Friday was the day to take Suribachi. The extinct volcano rose from the tiny
atoll as a symbol of defiance. By the end of D plus 3 the power that was once
invested by the Japanese in Suribachi Yama had been broken. However, there was
plenty of fight left in the remnants of the Japanese garrison entrenched in it’s caves
and pillboxes. Elements of the 28th Marine Regiment were tasked with taking
and holding this desolate piece of real estate.

In early 1945 Nazi Germany was in it’s death throes. The war in the Pacific was entering it’s 4th bloody year. The Japanese were retreating on all fronts. The Allied armed forces were pushing the Japanese hard. The US Navies submarines had all but cut off Japan from it’s conquest’s. Huge B-29 armada’s struck at will against the Japanese home islands. MacArthur had returned to the Philippines and the once mighty Imperial Japanese Navy had been all but destroyed at Leyte Gulf.
It was now time for the allies to move closer to Japan and take control of an island that was part of the Japanese inner defences. Iwo Jima was a small pork chop shaped atoll that was only 5 miles long and 2 miles wide. On 30 June 1944 the defence of this island was entrusted to Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi. He set about with great vigor turning the whole island into a maze of tunnels and fortifications. The entire shore line was covered with artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire. There was no danger of the defenders being caught by surprise as there were only 2 beaches that onto which a landing could be made.
The Americans had been subjecting Iwo to air and surface bombardment for seven months before the Marines went ashore on February 19, 1945. Covering the invasion force was the ships of the mighty Task Force 58, which contained no less than 18 carriers and 8 battleships. Task Force 58 had just returned from it’s 2 day aerial assault on Tokyo. At about 9:00 am on February 19th the battleships New York, Texas, Nevada, Arkansas, Idaho, and Tennessee led a host of cruisers and destroyers around the island pummeling it with their fire as the Marines loaded into their LCI’s went ashore.
Establishing the beachhead was the only easy part of the invasion. Kuribayashi had ordered the defenders to let the Marines come on shore and pentetrate upto 200 yards before him soldiers were to open fire. However, even this was done under the murderous fire from Mt. Suribachi’s guns and mortars. The only cover provided on this barren, sandy island was the holes that the shells from the pre-invasion bombardment had created.
The 4th Marine division was tasked with cutting across the island and dividing the defenders. The garrison, originally estimated to be 15,000, was discovered to be more than 20,000. As the Marines pushed further ashore they found some of the most intricate defences any attacking forces had ever seen. The United States Marine Corps was in for the toughest fight of it’s long career.

The capture of Mt. Suribachi while not the end of the fight for Iwo Jima was a pivotal point in the battle. The first flag planted on it was too small to be seen from the ships at see. The raising of the 2nd flad was done several hours after the first. Joe Rosenthal captured the raising on film and provided us with one of the most famous pictures of the war.

I just took the picture. The marines took the island…
Joe Rosenthal

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