This year, Feb. 19 marks the 73rd anniversary of the start of the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The United States was seeking control of the Japanese island in advance of the projected aerial campaign against the Japanese home islands. It was to be used as a base for fighter aircraft and an emergency-landing site for bombers.
On Feb. 19, 1945, after three days of heavy bombardment on the island, U.S. Marines landed on Iwo Jima’s shores to fight against a Japanese garrison of 22,000 men. Despite taking heavy mortar fire and dealing with well-prepared defenses, 30,000 Marines led by Gen. Holland Smith managed to establish a solid beachhead.
After fighting fierce Japanese forces who were fighting underground and using artillery, on Feb. 23, 1945, the crest of the 550-foot Mount Suribachi was taken. By March 3, all three airfields on the island were under the control of the United States and by March 26, Japanese forces on the island were wiped out.
More than 6,000 Americans died in the bloody battle and 17,000 were wounded.
U.S. Marines from the 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment of the 5th Division took the crest of Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest peak and most strategic position, and raised the American flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Marine photographer Louis Lowery recorded the event as American troops looked on and cheered. Several hours later, Marines carried a larger flag onto the hill and raised it.
Cpl. Don Graves reflects on the first day of the battle and then reading something profound written on a K-ration fashioned into a makeshift memorial at the 5th Marine Division cemetery at the foot of Mt. Suribachi.
Watch the video here: