5 Things You Didn't Know About The Battle of Iwo Jima

On February 19, 1945, U.S. Marines invaded Iwo Jima and engaged in one of the most important battles of World War II. Find out what you didn’t know about Operation Detachment, the success of which brought American forces within 660 miles of Japan...

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The Medal of Honor Was Awarded to 27 Men For Valor at Iwo Jima The Battle of Iwo Jima accounted for 1/3 of all Medal of Honor awards for U.S. Marines in WWII.  27 U.S. Marine Corps and Navy personnel were awarded Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration in America, for their heroics in the Battle of Iwo Jima. On February 19, 1985, an event was held to mark the 40th anniversary of the landing on Iwo Jima. Called “Reunion of Honor”, it was attended by veterans from both sides that fought the battle.

The Battle of Iwo Jima Was The Costliest Battle in The U.S. Marine Corps On the first day of the battle, Lt. General Holland Smith predicted that capturing Iwo Jima would cost up to 15,000 casualties among American troops. In fact, he was way off; the battle made casualties of one in four U.S. troops, a staggering ratio when you consider that their forces numbered close to 100,000. Over 23,000 of them were U.S. Marines, with close to 6,000 dead, making it the costliest battle in the history of the Marine Corps. On the other side, Japanese forces are believed to have numbered over 21,000 at the start of the battle. Only about 1,000 were taken prisoner. The other 20,000 were killed or committed suicide. 

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The United States Transferred Ownership of Iwo Jima Back to Japan Although the battle for Iwo Jima resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead., the island was returned to Japan after 24 years. When Eisaku Sato, the Japanese Premier, visited America in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson gave Japan some small islands captured during the war, including Iwo Jima. Veterans of the battle from Japan and the United States hold a reunion on Iwo Jima every year.

Two Japanese Soldiers Didn’t Surrender Until 1949 American forces outnumbered the Japanese troops, but Japanese soldiers prepared and fortified the island in advance. They dug extensive caves and a warren of tunnels in which to hide and move around. Two Japanese soldiers who participated in the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima stayed hidden in the tunnels and caves for nearly five years, avoiding detection by U.S. forces.

Navajo Code Talkers Were Credited With Winning the Battle of Iwo Jima Navajo code talkers used their native language to relay coded messages during the battle. It was so successful that Major General Howard Connor said that without the Native Americans, the Marines could never have captured Iwo Jima. Lt General Seizo Arisue, the Japanese chief of intelligence, admitted after the war that while they broke the Air Force code, they failed to break the Navajo code, making it one of a select few codes in history to remain unbroken.