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...


The Military Campaign Lasted 36 Days Operation Detachment was the code-name given to the operation to take control of Iwo Jima. Intelligence sources were convinced it would take no more than a week but did not know that Japan was planning a strong defense at the island. The 36-day battle resulted in heavy casualties and fierce fighting, which one soldier described as similar to fighting on top of a pool table since the combat area was so small.

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.


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.

A Photo Taken on the Island Won a Pulitzer Prize for the Photographer The photo of the U.S. Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima on Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945, represented the first time a foreign flag had been raised on Japanese soil. Joe Rosenthal, an American photographer, took the photo, which won him the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. The photo became one of the iconic pictures taken during World War II.

Navajo Code Talkers Were Credited With Winning The Battle of Iwo Jima In The Code Book, author Simon Singh writes that the Navajo code talkers (members of the Navajo tribe who relayed messages using a code based on their tribal dialect) at Iwo Jima performed flawlessly and he quotes Major General Howard Connor as saying: "Without the Navajos, the Marines never would have taken 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.

Two Soldiers Didn’t Surrender Until 1949 Japanese forces were heavily outnumbered by American troops but had time to prepare and build an extensive labyrinth of caves and tunnels before their arrival. These tunnels were so complicated and so well-prepared that at least two Japanese soldiers who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 were able to live in the caves and tunnels and avoid detection by occupying U.S. forces for almost five years.