Today in history | U.S. flag raised on Iwo Jima

Today in history | U.S. flag raised on Iwo Jima

During the bloody Battle for Iwo Jima, U.S. Marines from the 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment of the 5th Division take the crest of Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest peak and most strategic position, and raise the U.S. flag. Marine photographer Louis Lowery was with them and recorded the event. Americans fighting for control of Suribachi’s slopes cheered the raising of the flag, and several hours later more Marines headed up to the crest with a larger flag. Joe Rosenthal, a photographer with the Associated Press, met them along the way and recorded the raising of the second flag along with a Marine still photographer and a motion-picture cameraman.

Rosenthal took three photographs atop Suribachi. The first, which showed five Marines and one Navy corpsman struggling to hoist the heavy flag pole, became the most reproduced photograph in history and won him a Pulitzer Prize. The accompanying motion-picture footage attests to the fact that the picture was not posed. Of the other two photos, the second was similar to the first but less affecting, and the third was a group picture of 18 Marines smiling and waving for the camera. Many of these men, including three of the six Marines seen raising the flag in the famous Rosenthal photo, were killed before the conclusion of the Battle for Iwo Jima in late March.

In early 1945, U.S. military command sought to gain control of the island of Iwo Jima in advance of the projected aerial campaign against the Japanese home islands. Iwo Jima, a tiny volcanic island located in the Pacific about 700 miles southeast of Japan, was to be a base for fighter aircraft and an emergency-landing site for bombers. On February 19, 1945, after three days of heavy naval and aerial bombardment, the first wave of U.S. Marines stormed onto Iwo Jima’s inhospitable shores.

The Japanese garrison on the island numbered 22,000 heavily entrenched men. Their commander, General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, had been expecting an Allied invasion for months and used the time wisely to construct an intricate and deadly system of underground tunnels, fortifications, and artillery that withstood the initial Allied bombardment. By the evening of the first day, despite incessant mortar fire, 30,000 U.S. Marines commanded by General Holland Smith managed to establish a solid beachhead.

During the next few days, the Marines advanced inch by inch under heavy fire from Japanese artillery and suffered suicidal charges from the Japanese infantry. Many of the Japanese defenders were never seen and remained underground manning artillery until they were blown apart by a grenade or rocket, or incinerated by a flame thrower.

While Japanese kamikaze flyers slammed into the Allied naval fleet around Iwo Jima, the Marines on the island continued their bloody advance across the island, responding to Kuribayashi’s lethal defenses with remarkable endurance. On February 23, the crest of 550-foot Mount Suribachi was taken, and the next day the slopes of the extinct volcano were secured.

By March 3, U.S. forces controlled all three airfields on the island, and on March 26 the last Japanese defenders on Iwo Jima were wiped out. Only 200 of the original 22,000 Japanese defenders were captured alive. More than 6,000 Americans died taking Iwo Jima, and some 17,000 were wounded.

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  • Sgt T.K. Shimono

    I had the honor of serving with senior Marines, some of whom fought on Iwo Jima, in 1959. They would invite me to some of their gab sessions, even though I was a Japanese American Marine, they treated me as a Marine. Some of what they talked about will never be written in books, because of what they saw and did. They are gone now and I am 79 years old, and will take what I heard with me. God Bless all of those Marines, Navy, etc., that fought on Iwo. Semper Fi to all past, present and future Marines.

  • Kapena Singson

    I would love to share a photo of mount seribachi. The best I’ve ever seen. I took it from a CH 53 in 1982. As they say a picture says a thousand words. But I don’t know how to post it here. Semper FI.

  • RM Dinwiddie(Dingus)

    My Dad served with the 4th MarDiv;4th Mar Reg;3rd Tank Battalion with the 23rd MARINES;Tank Crewman/Gunner–South Pacific Island Hop; Saipan-Tinian-Tarawa-Iwi Jima-Okinawa
    Cpl A M Dinwiddie(11-11-1925/01-11-2016) My Brother served 3 tours VN with 1/9-’65-’69–with 3 purple hearts(03-26-47/-01-02-’16(Cpl Chas Dinwiddie)–I served ’69-’73 with 1st MAW-HMH 462-MAG36//R M Dinwiddie–USMC–Semper Fi –To ALL Brothers and Sisters that have served and to those who are serving now and to those who will always carry it forward. SEMPER FI

  • Cpl J. W. Hornsey Mike 3/1 CUPP RVN 1970

    My dad Cpl G W Hornsey Jr was with Foxtrot 2/27 5th Div on Feb 19, 1945. My grandfather Navy LtCdr D M Roberts MD was a surgeon on a hospital ship off shore during the battle. My mom and dad were engaged at the time. My wife and I will be leaving on March 23rd with Military Historical Tours and the Iwo Jima Association to go to Guam and a day at Iwo Jima. I have chills just thinking about it. I served 24 years later and ended up as an 0311 radio operator with Mike 3/1 CUPP in Vietnam all of 1970.
    Semper Fi all my brothers.

  • David E Connly

    Or was awarded! It cranks me a little to see the word won like it was a trophy or a prize in a Bingo game

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