Seventy-six years ago on February 19, 1945 the battle for the island of Iwo Jima began.
It was one of the fiercest battles of the Pacific Theater as our nearly 70,000 Marines faced the full fury of the Japanese military.
America’s military leaders felt that the war would end quicker if we were able to conduct routine bombing missions over Japanese cities. But we needed an ideal location with an airfield from which to do this-Iwo Jima. Located just 760 miles from Tokyo, Iwo Jima was an ideal target for our forces. It was just close enough to the mainland for our B-29 Superfortresses to conduct these raids. It was planned that the Navy would shell the island for at least ten days before sending the Marines onto the beaches. Instead, the Navy only gave them three days of bombardment. Thus, on February 19, the Marine Corps landed on the black sand of Iwo with only a vague conception of what lay before them.
Attacking this island was like attacking the Japanese’ homes, thus they fought more fiercely than ever before making this battle a living hell for the Marines fighting it. What made this campaign especially hard was the complicated maze of tunnels which the Japanese used to hide giving the Marines a false impression of their intentions before overwhelming them with infantry and artillery offensives. Once the Marines landed, hell unleashed, with the Japanese throwing their full wrath upon the Americans. It took four days for the Americans to advance far enough to climb the top of Mount Suribachi. Once the hill was secured, six Marines were sent to the top of the hill to plant an American flag. Joe Rosenthal followed them up the side to try to capture some shots. He ended up taking the most iconic picture of the Second World War. When those Marines raised the flag, the sight of our “Stars and Stripes” flying in the wind gave our boys the boost they needed to win that battle. The flag raising was more than an iconic photo. More than a war bond poster. To the Marines on Iwo Jima it was a sign that no matter how tough, how fierce, the battle was-they were going to fight on. They were going to win. It was a symbol that tyranny would be vanquished and freedom would prevail.
And, twenty-one days later, they succeeded and secured Iwo Jima for America.
The men of Iwo Jima were giants in American history. How many of us today would board a landing craft and step onto an island to face a merciless enemy in defense of God and country? In defense of freedom? Would we do it even if we knew that our chances of survival were slim?
These guys did. Many of them were not over the age of eighteen. They had their full lives ahead of them. They had hopes. They had dreams. They had plans for the future. And yet, when their country called they answered. When their land, their freedom, their sweethearts, their wives, and their children were threatened-they stepped up and gave it everything they had. They fought for freedom. They defeated tyranny. They saved America. In fact, they saved the world. They preserved for their children, their children’s children, for us, this great nation we live in every day. Sadly, many of these brave souls did not make it home to enjoy the freedom they fought so hard for. 6,800 lives lost in this one battle. 6,800 dreams that would never be fulfilled. 6,800 families that would never be the same. They gave their lives for ours. We owe them a debt we can never repay. So, this February 23, 2021 remember the men of Iwo Jima. Remember these heroes. We would not be here without them.