While Germany's capitulation is closing (May 8th 1945) Japan has no more hopes. Tokyo is under the bombs as are all the major cities of the island; the marchant's navy has been completely destroyed by the american submarines; the japanese fleet was sunk in the last battles (Mariannas, Leyte); Japaneses are left with only their honor and they want to hold to it and so they shall resist and inflict the most damages to the enemy before dying.
Between the Mariannas and Japan is Iwojima: a small volcanic island (9km by 5km) of the island group Volcano, it is well defended. It is an advanced base for seeking and intercepting the americans bombers that are going over Japan but in the hands of the Americans it could be used as an airbase for the escort fighters and as an emergency runway for the damaged bombers.
The american officers then plan a major attack on the island on February 19th 1945 that would end March 1st. Admiral Spruance is commanding the ships with under his orders: admiral Turner who is in charge of the landing with his 485 ships: 8 battleships, 12 escort carriers, 19 cruisers and 44 destroyers and transports; and admiral Mitscher with his Task Force 58 who is covering the whole operation; general Schmidt leads the 5th Amphibic Corps, the 4th and 5th Marine division with the 3rd division in reserve for a total of 70 000 Marines. The defense of the island is assured by general Tadamichi Kuribayashi which has under his orders the 109th reenforced division (21 000 men) with their 150 artillery mortars. The general has also one great ace in his sleeve: Iwojima is fortified with many blockhaus, shelters, commanding posts, ammunition stockrooms and hospitals; all of which is linked by 20km of undergrounds.The Chidori airbase only is defended by 150 blockhaus.
February 16th an american group of 16 carriers, 9 battleships, 14 cruisers and 77 destroyers gets 300km away from Tokyo and the aircrafts attack many factories. After that the group turns back toward Iwojima and joins Task Force 54 to help the 5th Amphibic Corps landing (of major-general Schmidt).
Sound- landing at Iwojima with a reporter -Sound
Operation Detachment is launched: february 19th at dawn 43 transports, 63 LST (landing ship tank) and 31 LSM (landing ship medium) land to let out the 4th and 5th Marine divisions on the South-West coast of the island which was bombed before for three days by the Tasks Forces 54 and 58 and also bombed by aircrafts for 74 days. Even with that the Marines are nailed on landing to the ground of the black volcanic beaches by the enemy heavy fire. The covering ships have to get closer to shoot each blockhaus with direct salvos. At the end of the day the Marines can finally progress but on the 30 000 men landed 3000 are already dead. The 3rd division held back is then sent into the battle.
The Marines progress South and February 23rd the 28th Regiment (4th division) conquer Mount Suribachi (high of 170m) by putting there the american flag (try twice). To clean up the island from South to North they bring the 3rd division in. The Seabees have already built runways for the P-51 Mustang on March 8th even if Japaneses are still present on the island: particularly in sector 382 (center-East) named the Meat Grinder, sector 362A (West) and sector 362B (North). The Americans use flame-throwers to decrease resistance and tank-dozers to bury it. March 9th a patrol of the 21st Marine division gets to the North coast but it takes another 17 days before the island is under control. That 17th day, March 26th, the Japaneses launch a last attack where 262 Japaneses die and after which general Kuribayashi kills himself.
Video- The American flag is floating at Iwojima -Video
During all the clearing of the island the japanese airplanes make raids on the american troops, losing 500 aircrafts while the japanese navy never attacked; 21 000 japanese soldiers are dead of which 8000 are buried in their last retreats and only 214 surrender. On the American side 6500 soldiers die and 18 000 are harmed. On sea the carrier Bismark Sea is sunk by a Kamikaze while the Saratoga is badly damaged. Once again the american officers see that the Japaneses prefer to die rather than to surrender: Japan's capitulation will be hard and yield heavy losses.
Once the island conquered, Iwojima becomes an excellent position. From March to August 1945 2400 Superfortress B-29 will make emergency landing. Even more, with the rescue means based there 402 pilots who fell in the sea were rescued. Finally operation Workman is started: the runways are made bigger so that 4 day fighter groups (P-51 Mustang) and night ones (P-61 Black Widow) can be based there.
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