March, 1945 – Iwo Jima

The Battle of Iwo Jima (Feb. 19 – Mar. 26, 1945) produced some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific campaign.

The Japanese positions on the island were heavily fortified, with vast bunkers, hidden artillery, and 11 miles of underground tunnels. The battle was the first American attack on the Japanese home islands, and the Imperial soldiers defended their positions tenaciously.

Of the 22,786 Japanese soldiers entrenched on the island, 21,703 died either from fighting or by ritual suicide. Only 1,083 were captured alive.  The Allied forces suffered 27,909 casualties, with 6,821 killed in action.The U.S. mission was to capture the island’s two airfields.

Joe Rosenthal, AP photographe

The battle was immortalized by Joe Rosenthal’s photograph of the raising of the U.S. flag on top of Mount Suribachi by five Marines and one Navy Corpsman. The picture became the iconic image of the battle and in many respects, of World War II.  Aunt Ethel included very few photos in her voluminous collection, but something told her to include this one — the most iconic and well-known wartime photograph ever taken.

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