Iwo Jima
A special report by Rocky
Published : 13 April 2004
Last updated : 28 December 2005
: Here


"Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue"

What is it about Iwo Jima that has moved so many people to pay their respects in the best way they know how and make sure this event is never forgotten ?

Iwo Jima retains the dubious honour of being one of a select number of campaigns that sticks in the mind of anyone with the slightest knowledge of World War II history. So much so that the assault on this Japanese island during February and March of 1945 has been well documented on the internet, recreated in the movies, as a stand alone computer game, and as a custom map and mission in Ghost Recon. In order to understand why the Japanese home island of Iwo Jima is remembered, and why Ghost Recon modders were moved to create mods in remembrance, we need to identify what separated Iwo Jima from the assaults on other Japanese Islands back in the mid 1940's.

The Scene

As the Americans began their assault on the Japanese islands, Japan was wavering, its ability to support it's troops was failing. Naval blockades and air raids put Japan in a situation where it was over extended, and under pressure. On the ground however, the Japanese soldiers were determined. Fighting to a death they had already resigned themselves to, they proved that they would live and die by their code of honour. Their refusal to surrender was so strong that they would rather kill themselves, and that is exactly what happened on Saipan where munition starved troops and civilians killed themselves by the thousands rather than surrender.

In the face of such loyalty to their Emperor and fierce fighting by the Japanese troops, the American forces changed tactics and instructed heavy bombardments prior to beach landings.

Iwo Jima

Strategically, America needed to take Iwo Jima, not least for the use of its 3 airfields. Japan on the other hand had never suffered the indignity of a foreign army setting foot on its soil for 5000 years, and was determined it was not to happen in 1944.

The pre-landing bombardment at Iwo Jima was ineffective to a large degree. The defenders had constructed a complex system of caves and tunnels that afforded the Japanese a good and effective defence to the bombardment. Around 1,500 rooms were dug out of rock connected with an amazing 16 miles of tunnels. In addition to this physical obstacle that the Americans would have to overcome, the defending troops were extremely determined and well led by General Kuribayashi, their Japanese Commander. General Kuribayashi demanded such respect from his troops that they had each and every one of them vowed to fight to the end, taking at least 10 Americans with them.

The Americans realised their bombardment had not been effective as soon as the Marines landed and were cut down in droves as they tried to penetrate the complex defensive system.

The marines found themselves with no cover, no effective support and not even the opportunity to remove the mounting number of wounded from the firing line. This proved to be the worst landing experienced by the Marines during the entire conflict.


Almost 7000 marines lost their lives trying to take Iwo Jima, and almost 21,000 Japanese died in defence of the island.

The battle for Iwo Jima would become the worst in the history of the United States Marine Corps.

Many people have seen this amazing image taken by Joe Rosenthal of an American flag raising. Infact, it is the most widely distributed war image ever shown.

Some people assume the image is a staged re-enactment, or a promotional shot for the movies.

This is hardly surprising considering the remarkable symmetry, balance and emotional content of the photograph.

Some of today's generation reading this may be surprised to know that this is infact a record of the American flag raising on Iwo Jima.

The image was immediately used in a campaign back home to raise funds for the war effort through bonds sales.

The flag itself is now held in the Marine Corps Museum, Washington, D.C.

The statue modelled on that event back in 1944 with its 32 feet high figures and a 60 foot flagpole is the world's tallest bronze statue. It stands 78 feet high. A cloth flag flies from the pole.

In Remembrance

As mentioned in the introduction, their have been many attempts to ensure that the events at Iwo Jima will never be forgotten.

A National Iwo Jima Memorial Monument was unveiled on February 23, 1995, the 50th Anniversary of the historic flag raising on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima.

John Wayne starred (and received an Academy Award nomination) in the 1949 movie Sands Of Iwo Jima, and met the three surviving members of Easy Company who lifted the flag in that photograph: Ira Hayes, John Bradley, and Rene Gagnon.

Tony Curtis starred in the highly rated 1961 movie "The Outsider" which focused on Ira Hayes.

May 2000, Flags of our Fathers is released by James Bradley, son of John Bradley who is second from the right in the photograph shown above. Mrs Bradley said of John that he cried in his sleep for the first four years they were married, such was the trauma of Iwo Jima.

December 2002, Akira releases Assault on Radar Hill, a Ghost Recon modification. Also found in our Downloads section here.



Newspaper Archives

memorial statue

Iwo Jima books, DVDs and products

Marine Corps. Memorial

James Bradley.com

The Outsider Movie

The Outsider Movie

Sands of Iwo Jima movie

Audio Book





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