February 19 of 1945: D-Day…
Intelligence had grossly underestimated island conditions, the coming weather, and, most of all, the enemy’s fortifications. But despite the mounting obstacles, none had anticipated the resolve of the United States Marine Corps. For five grueling weeks, Marines engaged in one of the grittiest and bloodiest fights of the Pacific War – the Battle for Iwo Jima.
Victory would come at a cost of over 26,000 American casualties. Iwo Jima was the only battle by the U.S. Marine Corps in which the overall American casualties (killed and wounded) exceeded those of the Japanese, although Japanese combat deaths were three times those of the Americans throughout the battle. The 26,000 American casualties were one third of all Marine Corps casualties in the entire war. Of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima at the beginning of the battle, only 216 were taken alive. More than twice as many Marines died in 36 days of combat on Iwo Jima than had been killed in all of World War I. In all, over 800 Americans gave their lives for every square mile of Iwo Jima’s black volcanic sand.
22 U.S. Marines and 5 U.S. sailors would earn our nation’s highest military accolade, the Medal of Honor. In fact, 28% of all Medals of Honor awarded to U.S. Marines during World War II were earned during the Battle of Iwo Jima.