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
understand why the Japanese home island of Iwo Jima is remembered,
and why Ghost Recon modders were moved to create mods in
to identify what separated Iwo Jima from the assaults on
other Japanese Islands back in the mid 1940's.
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
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
In the face of such loyalty
to their Emperor and fierce fighting by the Japanese troops,
the American forces changed tactics and instructed heavy
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
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
This is hardly surprising
the remarkable symmetry, balance and emotional
content of the photograph.
Some of today's generation
this may be surprised to know that this is infact
a record of the American flag raising on Iwo Jima.
image was immediately used in a campaign back home to
raise funds for the war effort through bonds
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.
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
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
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.