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The Impact of Battle of Iwo Jima Term Paper

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The Second World War is rightfully regarded as the most devastating battle in modern history and it involved almost all nations of the world. The United States joined the battle at a relatively later stage and engaged in a number of significant battles against the Axis Alliance in both Europe and Asia. One of the most intense battles carried out by US troops was against Japanese forces in the island of Iwo Jima.

This battle which spanned for over a month had some significant repercussions for the US and Japanese Empire. This paper will set out to discuss the impact of the battle of Iwo Jima with an overview of the reasons why the battle took place and the major parties involved provided.

Origins of the War

The invasion of Iwo Jima by US forces was precipitated by the success of the offensive against Japanese forces in the Mariana Islands. The Mariana Islands were to serve as a major launching pad for an intense attack against mainland Japan (Brown 14).

However, for this campaign to work, Iwo Jima needed to be under US control since Iwo Jima lie halfway between Tokyo and Mariana. The Island of Iwo Jima had been developed by the Japanese as a base for intercepting US bombers on their way to Japan. Under Japanese control, the Iwo Jima Island played a crucial role in the defense of mainland Japan by serving as an early warning station.

The US forces regarded this island as of great strategic importance in carrying out attacks against mainland Japan. The operation to capture Iwo Jima was code named “Detachment” and it was based on the “island hopping” theory where American troops set out to occupy islands that were of strategic importance in the war against Japan (Brown 18). The invasion of Iwo Jima began on 19 February 1945 with the landing of American forces on the island while bombers attacked key Japanese positions and their warships.

Major Figures

A number of top American Commanders were involved in the Iwo Jima operation. The order to occupy the island of Iwo Jima was issued by the then Joint Chiefs of Staff to Chester Nimitz who was the Commander in Chief Pacific.

Nimitz’s right hand man, Admiral Raymond Spruance was the operations commander. Admiral Richmond Turner was placed as the “Joint Expeditionary Force Commander” and his great organization skills assisted in the mounting of operations (Wright 13). Lieutenant-General Holland Smith was the Fleet Commander of the marine force in the pacific.

The Japanese side also had a number of high-ranking military personnel. Lieutenant-General Tadamichi Kuribayashi who was a samurai with a record 30year of distinguished military service commanded the garrison on Iwo Jima (Wright 13). The other high-ranking officer on the island was Colonel Baron Takeichi Nishi who commanded a tank unit that acted as reinforcement for the island.

The Island Defenses

As of early 1944, the island had an archaic defense system that could not withstand a major assault. When General Kuribayashi was given command of the garrison at Iwo Jima, he set out to upgrade the defense system of the island in readiness for the impending war.

The first action was to remove the civilian population from the island to the mainland in order to conserve food and water suppliers that would be used by the troops. The general also asked for more troops to be stationed at the island and a massive program of underground defense be established.

Due to these efforts, an elaborate underground defense system what was made up of extensive tunnels, caves, and gun placements was set up within 9 months. Lieutenant General Holland Smith who commanded the Fleet Marine Force asserted that this was easily the most heavily fortified island in the world (Brown 18). Iwo Jima therefore presented unmatched tactical challenges for the invading American forces.

Impacts of the War

The war led to the greatest percentage loss of American troops in combat. Lieutenant-General Howlin Smith declared this battle “the most savage and most costly battle in the history of the Marine Corps” by (Wright 10).

Over the course of the invasion, 73,000 American troops were landed on the Island. During the 36days of heavy fighting, 6,800 marines lost their lives making it the battle with the largest percentage of casualties for the US during the Second World War. Brown observes that the terrain on the island failed to allow for clear lines of battle making it hard to launch an effective offensive (19).

The battle led to defeat of the Japanese and the subsequent occupation of the island of Iwo Jima by US forces. From the onset, the Japanese troops on the island who were approximately 21,000 were greatly outnumbered by the invading American force (Brown 19).

Japanese troops had orders to fight to the last man and during the conflict, Japanese troops were neither withdrawn nor reinforced. By the 28th day of battle, the US troops had neutralized most of the Japanese troops and the island was declared secure. Active combat ended on the 36th day and the island was officially under American occupation.

The American victory in Iwo Jima hastened the ending of the war since this volcanic island was of strategic importance to American war efforts. Hama notes that in spite of several years of war in the Pacific, the US had not been able to deter the Japanese since Japan industries in the mainland remained untouched and in full production (4).

Capturing the island made it possible for the US to reach Japan easily. Iwo Jima was ideally located halfway across the distance between Tokyo and the US bases in the Marianas (Russ 12). The Island provided a much-needed base of operation for carrying out raids on Japanese industrial locations.

In addition to this, the seizure of Iwo Jima gave the US added military advantage since the island was used for both air and sea blockade (Hama 4). By using this island as a base, US forces were able to carry out aggressive bombardments on Japanese naval vessels hence greatly reducing Japan’s naval capabilities. Arial bombardments on the air factor diminished Japan’s air capability thereby hastening the ending of the war.

Following the victory of the American forces, the US flag was hoisted on Mount Suribachi. This was a crucial moment in the war since it was the first time that a foreign flag had been raised on Japanese soil for generations (Russ 15). This takeover of the island signified the end of Japanese expansionism and the Pacific war. American victory in Iwo Jima served as a signal that the invasion of Japan was imminent


This paper set out to assess the impact of one of the fiercest battle of World War II, the battle of Iwo Jima. It began by highlighting the circumstances that made the battle necessary and the main actors in the war.

This paper has documented that this bloody battle, which raged for 36days, led to the death of 6,800 US marines and 21,000 Japanese soldiers who chose to die rather than surrender. However, the war was able to gain the US forces huge strategic advances and therefore accelerate the eventual victory of the Allies in the Second World War.

Works Cited

Brown, Scott. Preparing Boys for Battle. Boston: NCFIC, 2010. Print.

Hama, Larry. The Battle of Iwo Jima: Guerilla Warfare in the Pacific. NY: Rosen Classroom, 2007. Print.

Russ, John. “VII Fighter Command Operations from Iwo Jima, April-August 1945.” Air Power History 48.3 (2001): 12-17. Web.

Wright, Derrick. Iwo Jima 1945: The Marines raise the flag on Mount Suribachi. NY: Osprey Publishing, 2012. Print.

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