Troops unload invasion supplies from Coast Guard and Navy landing craft on the black sand coast of Iwo Jima, a few hours after U.S. Marines had established a foothold on February 19, 1945. Control of Iwo Jima meant control of an airbase close to Tokyo, and the Japanese defended the island fiercely for over a month before the Allies were able to take it over. (© CORBIS)
This airview of Iwo Jima gives an idea of the minute size of the island. In the background, part of the U.S. invasion armada can be seen offshore. (© Bettmann/CORBIS)
The invasion search of Iwo Jima is littered with American equipment and Marines as Japanese fire rakes the area. In the background are wrecked hulls and intricacies. In the foreground, Marines dig in for shelter from blistering Japanese barrage. Marines killed on the beach were buried sand as the tide came in. (© Bettmann/CORBIS)
An LSM, with its bow open to the beach, disgorges its cargo of supplies on the Iwo Jima beachhead on Feb 21, 1945. AmTracs and Ducks swim in alongside and then climb up on shore, while Marines aid in the unloading process (center) or rest in foxholes (top). (© Bettmann/CORBIS)
A group of Marines slide a blanket under the wounded Corporal Porter. (© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS)
From the crest of Mount Suribachi, the Stars and Stripes wave in triumph over Iwo Jima after U.S. Marines had fought their way inch by inch up its steep lava-encrusted slopes. February 23, 1945. (© CORBIS)
United States Marines pose on top of Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima with the American flag on February 23, 1945. (© Bettmann/CORBIS)
Pfc. Rez P. Hester of the 7th War Dog Platoon, 25th Regiment, takes a nap while Butch, his war dog, stands guard. February 1945. (© CORBIS)
Lights illuminate the tunnels of the Imperial Navy hospital cave on Iwo Jima. (© MICHAEL CARONNA/Reuters/Corbis)
A Marine reads a stack of letters in his foxhole with a rifle close by for instant use. (© CORBIS)
Black members of a Marine division on Iwo Jima (© Bettmann/CORBIS)
A wounded Marine is helped to an aid station by a Navy corpsman and another Marine. ca. March 1, 1945. (© CORBIS)
Kneeling in the sands of Iwo Jima, and surrounded by their equipment and empty shell cases, three Marines offer up a prayer during a lull in the fighting for Motoytama air strip No. 1. Buddies in the background keep on the alert for enemy attack. (© Bettmann/CORBIS)
Wounded Marines await evacuation to Guam. March 1945. (© CORBIS)
The crew of the USS Saratoga tries to control fires caused by Japanese planes near Iwo Jima. (© CORBIS)
Ensign Jane Kendiegh, USNR, of Oberlin, Ohio, the first Navy flight nurse to set foot on any battlefield, bends over a badly wounded Marine. Seated in background are three Marines, victims of shell shock. (© Bettmann/CORBIS)
This General Sherman tank was wrecked by a land mine and hit five times by Japanese artillery fire on Iwo Jima, but its Fourth Marine Division crew escaped without any casualties. (© CORBIS)
An observer who spotted a machine gun nest finds its location on a map so that he can send the information to artillery or mortars to hit the position. February 1945. (© CORBIS)
A wounded Marine is helped to the beach, where a landing craft will take him to a hospital ship. At this point, the U.S. controls two-thirds of the Japanese outpost and is slowly, but steadily moving the remaining Japanese suicide troops towards the northern tip of Iwo Jima. (© Bettmann/CORBIS)
Corpsmen carry a wounded Marine away from the front lines on Iwo Jima. (© CORBIS)
Marines pose with the Japanese flag after capturing the island of Iwo Jima. (© Joseph Schwartz/CORBIS)
A soldier relieves himself as he stands on a hilltop overlooking the devastation wreaked during the Battle of Iwo Jima. (© CORBIS)

Photos From the Battle of Iwo Jima to Mark Its 70th Anniversary

The battle for the Pacific island in the late winter of 1945 positioned the United States to invade mainland Japan, but at a cost

smithsonian.com

Seventy years ago, U.S. Marines secured Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima, beginning a long and bloody fight for control of the World War II Japanese outpost. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal's image of soldiers planting an American flag atop Mount Suribachi has lived on as a symbol of the battle, winning the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for photography and inspiring the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.

The United States eventually secured the 8-square-mile island, located approximately 760 miles south of Tokyo, but not without sacrifice. American troops would fight for a month more after taking Mount Suribachi and the first of two Japanese airfields. Capturing Iwo Jima was of strategic importance to B-29 air raids on mainland Japan. It also demonstrated to the Americans that the Japanese army would defend their lands at all costs, something which influenced United States’ decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki later that year.

The first of 70,000 Marines arrived on the southern coast of Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945 and fought for control of the island until March 26. Though American forces outnumbered Japanese troops three-to-one, the Japanese used a system of dugouts, blockhouses and underground tunnels to their advantage. In the end, few Japanese troops survived the battle. The U.S. suffered over 20,000 casualties.

Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz said of the fight: “Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded for actions at the Battle of Iwo Jima, the most of any World War II operation.

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