Iwo Jima // Positively Speaking // Mark Wilson

On February 19, 1944, the Battle for Iwo Jima commensed.  Nearly one hundred thousand desperate men fought on a tiny island four miles long and two miles wide.

The battle was for control of two strategic airfields   The Americans knew they HAD to take the island in order to stop Japanese aggression.  However, 22,000 determined Japanese defenders were prepared to fight to the death if necessary.  That is exactly what they did.

The “three day battle” that had been predicted, ended up lasting thirty six days, with nearly 50,000 casualties: 21,000 Japanese soldiers, and 26,000 Americans.  It was the only battle in the Pacific where the invaders suffered higher losses than the defenders.

“The Marines fought in World War II for forty-three months.” noted historian, James Bradley, “Yet in one month on Iwo Jima, one third of their total deaths occurred.”

There were no front lines.  The Marines were above ground, and the Japanese were in a labrynth of caves and bunkers underground.

“Uncommon valor,” observed Admiral Nimitz, “was a common virtue.”

The famous photograph of five marines and one sailor “raising of the flag” atop Mt. Suribachi, was snapped on February 23.  Over the next few days, three of these flag raisers were killed in action.

Many of the fallen American bodies never made it home.  They were buried right there on the island — 6800 graves adorned with crosses and stars.

Outside the cemetery, someone chiseled this message:

When you go home
Tell them for us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today.

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