60 years ago today, the battle of Iwo Jima began.
...more than 110,000 Americans and 880 ships began their assault on a small volcanic island in the Pacific, in the climactic battle of the last year of World War II. For the next 36 days Iwo Jima would become the most populous 7 1/2 square miles on the planet, as U.S. Marines and Japanese soldiers fought a battle that would test American resolve even more than D-Day or the Battle of the Bulge had, and that still symbolizes a free society's willingness to make the sacrifice necessary to prevail over evil--a sacrifice as relevant today as it was 60 years ago.
The attack on Iwo Jima capped a two-year island-hopping campaign that was as controversial with politicians and the press as any Rumsfeld strategy. Each amphibious assault had been bloodier than the last: at Tarawa, where 3,000 ill-prepared Marines fell taking an island of just three square miles; at Saipan, where Army troops performed so poorly two of their generals had to be fired; and Peleliu, where it took 10 weeks of fighting in 115-degree heat to root out the last Japanese defenders, at the cost of 6,000 soldiers and Marines.
Iwo Jima would be the first island of the Japanese homeland to be attacked. The Japanese had put in miles of tunnels and bunkers, with 361 artillery pieces, 65 heavy mortars, 33 large naval guns, and 21,000 defenders determined to fight to the death. Their motto was, "kill 10 of the enemy before dying." American commanders expected 40% casualties on the first assault. "We have taken such losses before," remarked the Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Holland M. Smith, "and if we have to, we can do it again."
My father fought on Iwo Jima with the Marines and was wounded. I've heard stories about it since I was a small child. Pop is gone now, but the stories he told me remain. Read the entire article and you will see and understand the level of committment, courage, and sacrifice necessary for us to succeed against an even more determined and dug-in enemy today.
Thank you, Marines; thank you so much for preserving my freedom--then and now. Thank you, Pop.
UPDATE: Here's an Iwo Jima web site I have always liked (and with music!)
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