The Battle – Japan’s Iwo Jima Strategy

Japanese Strategy

General Kuribayashi, the Japanese Commander of Iwo Jima, was brilliant. An aristocrat, he was educated in Canada and toured the US. In Japan, he was one of the few soldiers ever granted an audience by Emperor Hirohito.

His preparations, fortifications and strategy were marvels in the history of warfare. The Japanese strategy was unique for three reasons: 1) The Japanese didn’t fight above ground. They fought the battle entirely from beneath the ground. They dug 1,500 rooms into the rock. These were connected with 16 miles of tunnels. 2) Japanese strategy called for “no Japanese survivors.” They planned not to survive. 3) Japanese strategy was for each soldier to kill 10 Americans before they themselves are killed.

Location

Both Japan and the US valued the sulfurous island Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima was Japanese home soil, part of Japan, only 650 miles from Tokyo. It was administered by the Tokyo metropolitan government. No foreign army in Japan’s 5000 year history had successfully trod on Japanese soil. To the US, Iwo Jima’s importance lay in its location, midway between Japan and American bomber bases in the Marianas. Since the summer of 1944, the Japanese home islands had been reeling from strikes by the new, long range B-29’s. The US, however, had no protective fighters with enough range to escort the big superfortresses. many bombers fell prey to Japanese fighter-interceptor attacks. Iwo, with its three airfields, was ideally located as a fighter-escort station. It was also an ideal sanctuary for crippled bombers returning from Japan.

No Japanese Survivors

In Tokyo months before the invasion, General Kuribayashi had been told “if America’s casualties are high enough, Washington will think twice before launching an another invasion against Japanese territory.” The Japanese strategy of “no Japanese survivors” is heroic Japanese stance is commonly glorified in Japanese historical novels, classic books, plays and movies. It touches at the heart of the Japanese sense of sacrifice of the individual for the greater good. “You must not expect my survival,” General Kuribayashi wrote to his wife long before the invasion came. General Kuribayashi’s command center had 5 ft. thick walls, a 10 ft. thick roof. This cement capsule was under 75 ft. of solid rock.

185 thoughts on “The Battle – Japan’s Iwo Jima Strategy

  1. Let Freedom Ring.

    People who served and are serving for our country should be given more respect then most give them. They sacrificed their lives and mental health so that we could be free, we could never thank them enough.

    Reply
  2. David H.Rosen,M.D

    Greetings of the New Year to everyone,
    My father, Max Rosen, M.D. went insane on the way to Iwo Jima. From what I know, the island warfare pre-Iwo Jima and the casualties impacted my father in a serious manner. Losing friends and colleagues in battle took a huge toll. He was an officer in the Navy, but trained with the Marines. I wonder if he, too, read the intelligence briefing, as they approached Iwo Jima. I think he was with the 5th Marine Division and received a Purple Heart. When I was born on February 25, 1945 in Port Chester, NY, my mother received this message back from the Red Cross : “Missing in Action.” My father never talked about the war. I have compassion for all the recent vets with PTSD. And because my father flipped out, it saved his life. I wrote a children’s book, “Henry’s Tower,” about his explosive rage. It is used in bibliotherapy with children of angry war vets. Surely his experience had a lot to do with my becoming a CO. President John F.Kennedy inspired me with this maxim, “War will exist until that distant day, when the conscientious objector is as honored as the warrior is today.” I used this JFK quote in my application to become a CO, when I registered with the Selective Service Board in 1963. In 1970 I was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, but my application was activated and approved. I was ordered to do (and did) two years of alternative service in a California Mental Hospital. Soon I will turn seventy and I still think President Kennedy was (and is) correct.
    Peace & gratitude,
    David H.Rosen, M.D.

    Reply
  3. Sgt. Allan J. Mortenson

    I landed on Red Beach Two on February 19th at 9 A M in the first Wave with a platoon of 55. What was left, 14,
    left the island on March 27th. Our’s was a Unit of the Fifth Marine Division. The Army combat unit that took over did
    so on March27th. Army Air Force and communications and field hospital units were already in operation. In light of
    the location of Japanese headquarters and artillery positions, Naval gunfire could have been used more effectively.
    Also the non-block buster bombs had limited affect on the Japanese defenders. Six thousand eight hundred and
    twenty one Americans [mainly Marines and Navy Corpsmen] died, 19,217 were wounded. In addition, Japanese
    Kamikazes sunk the jump carrier – Bismark Sea – in the early evening of February 21st causing the death of 313
    Sailors. / Any one who claims starving them out as a strategy does not understand the situation of that time.

    Reply
  4. jim stockton

    I was a member of the 5th Tank Battalion, 5th Marine Division for all “26 Days Of Hell” on Iwo Jima. For my personal experiences, go to GOOGLE and type in shimpai nai memoir of US Marine. And The taking of Iwo Jima saved an estimated 32,000 B-29 airmen who would have gone down in their shot-up planes.
    Semper Fidelis

    Reply
  5. Sgt. Allan J. Mortenson

    I had just turned 18 and landed in the first wave with the 1st Platoon, Co. F., 2nd Bn. 27th Marines. Our unit was the
    only one to reach our first day objective – crossing the island at its narrow place. We were 55 on landing, less than 35
    made it across. I was fortunate to survive until the end. When we went aboard the Storm King for the trip back to Hawaii,
    there were only 14 left – and there had been replacements in between. That was March 27th, the early pre-dawn of that
    day the Japanese walked in to the Army Air Corps tent area and cut the throats of the pilots and crew. Some wore Marine
    uniforms and carried M I rifles taken from the dead earlier to pull off this deception The Japanese moved from the 549th
    Night Fighter Squadron [the P 61s], to the 49th Signal Construction Battalion, to the 21st Field Guard, and then the
    465th Aviation Squadron [the P 51s], and the 726th Signal Warning Battalion, before attacking 2 Seabee Battalions, and
    then on to the Army 38th Field Hospital. All located between the two air fields.
    Until now no Marine units had become involved. Finally the Marine that turned the tide was the 5th Marine Pioneer
    Battalion an all black unit that was slated to leave the island that day. There task had been ship to shore – supplies,
    wounded. and equipment. In there counter attack 262 Japanese dead were found of which 196 were in the Poineer
    Area That many were Japanese officers is attested to by the forty swords found and there were most likely more.
    Eighteen Japanese were taken prisoner. Lt. Martin, commander of the Pioneers was killed in action and was awarded
    the last of 30 Congressional Medals of Honor in that campaign.
    The Army 147th Infantry Regt. came in the same day to take over from all the Marines. I was fortunate to see
    this action from a site by an old Japanese Cemetery on the west side of the island.

    Reply
  6. Caelin Sutch

    Thank you all those veterens who served. This is a good brief overview, so much better then having to read the giant book I read on Iwo Jima, (Iwo Jima Legacy of Valor). Once again, thanks to all those who served in WWII and all the other wars.

    Reply
  7. Mom

    Oh my! This information was simply lovely! Thanks so much for providing it for my little boy, Timmy. (He has trouble in school so this is a HUGE help!)

    Reply
  8. Craig Brown

    I am a volunteer for the Wichita Falls annual Iwo Jima reunion, we would love to hear from those veterans of the battle. Please contact me for more information. As for all you who choose to put garbage on this site shame on you for not understanding and appreciating the sacrifices these men gave for you to have the rights you have today.

    Reply
  9. Lin East

    Connecticut has a group called SOSIWOJIMA- which recignizes survivors from the battle on Iwo- do any other states have such a program or group?
    The CT chapter is have a motorcycle ride May 19, 2013 to honor all WWII vets- God bless them all.

    Reply
  10. Lin East

    A World War II veteran who has been credited with supplying the American flag raised at Iwo Jima has died.

    According to the Los Angeles Times, Alan Wood, who was a 20-something Navy officer during the war, died at his Sierra Madre, Calif., home on April 18. He was 90.

    Reply
  11. Lin East

    where are the moderators? who let some of this garbage on here?
    This site should be for serious comments- not trash from people who have no clue what the service people went through over there.

    Reply
    • Iwo Jima Post author

      Some spammy inappropriate comments slip through the cracks of akismet (plugin supposed to detect spam), and have to be manually removed.

      Reply
  12. JAMES A SMITH JR.

    I AM A FORMER SURVIVOR OF IWO JIMA .EVEN THOUGH I AM A JR. I AM A SR. MARINE@92. FROM THE 3RD. DIV.WE WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO LAND ON IWO, AND YES I SURVIVED A ”KAMAKAZIE” ATTACK WHILE CRUSING OFF IWO. WE FINALLY WENT ASHORE ON THE 20TH OF FEB. I WAS ON LST 646. I WAS A MECHANIC , AND WAS PUTTING A TRACK ON WHEN THE FIRST FLAG WENT UP ON THE 23RD, BY MY FRIEND, CHARLES LINDBERG WAS ONE OF THE FIRST FLAG RAISERS. I WAS THERE WHEN IT WENT UP.NOT KNOWING HOW BAD IT WAS GOING TO BE, ”I SAID WE HAVE A WAR GOING ON DOWN HERE.”

    Reply
    • Westley

      hey if your really are a iwo jima survivor it would be nice for you to come visit my 12th grade history teacher at south lenoir high school in deep run NC because ive got ths project im doing on iwo jima itd be nice to get some true fact for a person that was actually there and learn what it was really like

      Reply
    • Colleen Kelly

      Hello Mr Smith,
      I was online searching for a James A Smith JR , well looking to find his family. You see, I was onboard the USNS Comfort during Desert Sheild/Desert Storm. I was a part of the flight deck crew. We took on many injured yet to this day the sailors from the accident on the ship IWO JIMA in Oct 1990 still haunt me. I was talking with my mom and she said maybe I should try to find their families and let them know that there WAS someone there to hold their hand in those dying moments. I happened upon you and your story on this website. I cannot even begin to imagine what you went through. Maybe I found the James A Smith JR I was supposed to find. Thank you for your service. Sincerely Colleen Kelly.

      Reply

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