The Battle of Iwo Jima (February 19 – March 26, 1945), or Operation Detachment, was a battle in which the United States fought for and captured Iwo Jima (lit. Sulfur Island) from Japan. The battle produced some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific Campaign of World War II.
The Japanese positions on the island were heavily fortified, with vast bunkers, hidden artillery, and 18 km (11 mi) of underground tunnels. The Americans were covered by extensive naval and air support, capable of putting an enormous amount of firepower onto the Japanese positions. The battle was the first American attack on the Japanese Home Islands, and the Imperial soldiers defended their positions tenaciously. Of the more than 18,000 Japanese soldiers present at the beginning of the battle, only 216 were taken prisoner. The rest were killed or were missing and assumed dead. The U.S. invasion was charged with the mission of capturing the two airfields on Iwo Jima. Despite heavy fighting and casualties on both sides, Japanese defeat was assured from the start. Total American superiority in arms and numbers, coupled with the impossibility of Japanese retreat or reinforcement, made that there was actually no way for the Americans to lose the battle.
The battle was immortalized by Joe Rosenthal's photograph of the raising of the U.S. flag on top of the 166 m (540 ft) Mount Suribachi by five Marines and one Navy Corpsman. The photograph records the second flag-raising on the mountain, which took place on the fifth day of the 35-day battle. The picture became the iconic image of the battle and has been heavily reproduced.
More than 450 ships massed off Iwo as the H-hour bombardment pounded the island. Shortly after 9 a.m., Marines of the 4th and 5th divisions hit beaches Green, Red, Yellow and Blue abreast, initially finding little enemy resistance. Coarse volcanic sand hampered the movement of men and machines as they struggled to move up the beach. As the protective naval gunfire subsided to allow for the Marine advance, the Japanese emerged from their fortified underground positions to begin a heavy barrage of fire against the invading force.
The 4th Marine Division pushed forward against heavy opposition to take the Quarry, a Japanese strong point. The 5th Marine Division's 28th Marines had the mission of isolating Mount Suribachi. Both tasks were accomplished that day.