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.

{ 176 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin November 21, 2009 at 7:59 pm

My dad was a Sargent in the Army and was in Iwo Jima for some time before the Marines came in. He is the recipient of 7 Battle Stars. He was very upset that the Army never received any credit for their accomplishments. He was very angry that the Marines got all the glory putting up the Flag, when the army had been there long before. He felt that the Marines came in towards the end and received all the glory. I am looking for information on the Army in Iwo Jima.

I recently watched a documentary on Iwo Jima and it did not mention once about the Army being there and what those men had to endure. It only mentioned what the Marines did. All the Army men who fought and gave their lives have been forgotten.

My dad did not like to talk about the war much, but that was the one thing that he was proud of but hurt by at the same time.

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pizzajona December 3, 2014 at 1:16 am

The marines were the first ones on the beach. http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/battleiwojima.htm

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Daniel F. Donovan November 27, 2009 at 9:23 pm

I have just read the book SO SAD TO FALL IN BATTLE- AN ACCOUNT OF WAR BASED ON GENERAL TADAMIKCHI KURIBAYASHI”S LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA. I recommend it most highly.
I was a member of the 24th Infantry Division which fought the Japanese in New Guinea and the Philippine Islands – not in the Central Pacific in which Iwo Jima was located. After having read the book I consider myself fortunate that my outfit was not a part of the force invading that island. I have to say that the reading of the book left me with a sincere admiration of the General as a genuine family man, an excellent soldier and a true patriot.

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Alissa Luigs November 30, 2009 at 11:22 am

i have about every book i can find about Iwo Jima. I love the intensity… not being a person that likes the war cause i dont. but to kno what happened at that time and what actually happened kinda gives me excitment. Im 13 years old and I enjoy reading all about the facts of the war. if you would e-mail me back with some really entresting facts that you kno about the war I would love to kno about them.
Thank You
Just another Person
Alissa Luigs

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Ron December 5, 2009 at 3:38 pm

that’s because the Army was used to “mop up”. They arrived in late March 1945. The Army was not there prior to the USMC.

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Pete Xanthos December 7, 2009 at 3:03 pm

I was in the Navy and landed with the marines on the first wave. We were suppossed to have the island secured in 3 days but it ended
in 29 days and I was on the island the whole time and saw the raising,of the flag twice. The Army camr on to the island near the end to take over for the Marines.
Pete

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paige December 10, 2009 at 1:05 pm

I am doing a project on Iwo Jima and i could use your help if you get this email and if you have time could tell me some in fromation on Iwo Jima. from paige

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estupendo December 16, 2009 at 5:15 am

I found it frankly distasteful and unnecessary to see the famous picture of the flag raising being used by the striking BRITISH AIRWAYS cabin staff UNION in London called BASSA. Surely these people cannot in any way see themselves as fighting a just war ?
http://www.bassa.co.uk/BASSA/webpages/front.asp

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L. R. Mertz December 22, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Robin,

I was in the Navy Amphibious force aboard a LSM, aka ‘Landing Ship Medium’ and participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. Prior to that invasion, by three marine divisions the 3rd, 4th and 5th, there were no army personnel on Iwo Jima. Starting on December 8, 1944 Iwo Jima was bombed for 72 consecutive days prior to the invasion. All branches of the service, including marines, coast guard, army, army air force and navy took part in the invasion of Iwo Jima but the marines are the ones that battled for 36 days to secure the island.

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john n kennedy January 4, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I would like for any veteran of Iwo Jima to comment about their experiences. There seems to be a great deal of misinformation
about the order of battle, length of engagement, etc. Since WWII
veterans are passing so quickly, our oppurtunity to learn first
hand experiences get more precious every day. My father, a member
of General Pattons 3rd Army, told me of his experiences in the
relief of the embattled men of the 101st Airborne in and around The
Battle of the Bulge. To have lived through that awful winter and
conflict is something I have difficulty imagining. I have the highest regard for all of our servicemen and women. Any comments
or narratives will be greatly appreciated.
sincerely, John N. Kennedy 01/04/10

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Terry Harvey January 5, 2010 at 11:30 am

This may be a very stupid idea from a military point of view.
But why not blokade the island with all those ships, just sit and wait until they starve. Which would have taken about the same amount of time as the battle. Victory without a shot fired.

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A History Teacher January 10, 2010 at 4:02 am

Dear Mr. Harvey.
I respecfully very much disagree with your view that the invasion of Iwo Jima was “a very stupid idea” from any point of view.

Your suggestion for a strategy of blockade of the island and “wait until the defenders starve” cannot possibly work in this 20th century era of modern warfare. The siege which you claimed “would have taken about the same amount of time as the battle and Victory achieved without a shot fired” could not occur due to the simple fact: Time.

Time was the essence here… America was racing against time. America needed badly a base for its bombers to land safely back from increasing raids to mainland Japan and to lay future ground for an invasion to Japan.

Anyway, the Americans were too confident with their invasion force strengths, experience in Saipan and arial bombardment to soften or annihilate any resistance from the Japanese.
Do refer to this link below:
http://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=12

The following excerpts are taken from it:

“The Americans knew the Japanese were expecting them, but when the field officers saw the intelligence reports, they were astonished by how many guns were present on the island. Black dots representing coastal defense guns, fox holes, artillery emplacements, anti-tank guns, blockhouses, pillboxes, and all sorts of defenses covered the whole island. The American intelligence only detected the presence of 12,000 Japanese, and even at that grossly underestimated quantity, it was already going to be a most difficult landing. Captain Dave Severance of the United States Marine Corps commented that looking at the intelligence map “scared the hell out of [him].” To soften up the defenses, beginning on 8 Dec 1944, B-29 Superfortress and B-24 Liberator bombers began pounding the island. For 70 days, the US 7th Air Force dropped 5,800 tons of bombs on the little island in 2,700 sorties. Holland Smith, the Marines general in charge of the landing operation, knew that even the most impressive aerial bombings would not be enough, and requested 10 days of naval bombardment before his Marines struck the beaches. To his surprise and anger, the Navy rejected the request. “[D]ue to limitations on the availability of ships, difficulties of ammunition replacement, and the loss of surprise”, the Navy said, made a prolonged bombardment impossible. Instead, the Navy would only provide a three-day bombardment. When the bombardment began on 16 Feb, Smith realized it was not even a full three-day bombardment. Visibility limitations due to weather led to only half-day bombardments on the first and third days. Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance told Smith that he regretted the Navy’s inability to suit the Marines to the fullest, but the Marines should be able to “get away with it.”

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Angela Tindle January 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I have read numerous books, accounts and military history, including Army history along with first person accounts of Company E and survivors of V Amphibious and they all say the same thing. The 4th and 5th Marine Amphibious units were the initial assaut units on Iwo Jiwa. Even though your father may have been on Iwo Jiwa at some point, there could not have have been any Americans on the island before V Amphibious landed. Iwo Jiwa was part and parcel of the Japanese Homeland. I can’t seem to find any records of Army personnel on the island before February 19, 1945, you might want to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. The Marine casualties numbered more than 26,000, whereas there were only around 22,000 Japanese on the island altogether. The entire island was bombed for 72 days before the Marines landed and for another 3 days from the guns of the invading ships. There could not have been an American Army force there. I honor your father for serving his country, but someone’s account is a little skewed.

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bertram January 25, 2010 at 4:23 pm

“The Americans knew the Japanese were expecting them, but when the field officers saw the intelligence reports, they were astonished by how many guns were present on the island. Black dots representing coastal defense guns, fox holes, artillery emplacements, anti-tank guns, blockhouses, pillboxes, and all sorts of defenses covered the whole island. The American intelligence only detected the presence of 12,000 Japanese, and even at that grossly underestimated quantity, it was already going to be a most difficult landing. Captain Dave Severance of the United States Marine Corps commented that looking at the intelligence map “scared the hell out of [him].” To soften up the defenses, beginning on 8 Dec 1944, B-29 Superfortress and B-24 Liberator bombers began pounding the island. For 70 days, the US 7th Air Force dropped 5,800 tons of bombs on the little island in 2,700 sorties. Holland Smith, the Marines general in charge of the landing operation, knew that even the most impressive aerial bombings would not be enough, and requested 10 days of naval bombardment before his Marines struck the beaches. To his surprise and anger, the Navy rejected the request. “[D]ue to limitations on the availability of ships, difficulties of ammunition replacement, and the loss of surprise”, the Navy said, made a prolonged bombardment impossible. Instead, the Navy would only provide a three-day bombardment. When the bombardment began on 16 Feb, Smith realized it was not even a full three-day bombardment. Visibility limitations due to weather led to only half-day bombardments on the first and third days. Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance told Smith that he regretted the Navy’s inability to suit the Marines to the fullest, but the Marines should be able to “get away with it.”

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Alexis January 29, 2010 at 10:07 pm

im doing a report for my english class, and this info. is verry helpful!!! So thanks!

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JIM January 30, 2010 at 6:57 pm

I ALSO AM DOING REPORT THANKS

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James January 31, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Thanks for this website i hav a HUGE history report to do

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tyler dale burst February 1, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Thanks i really needed help for the Battle of Iwo Jima project!!

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chris falcone February 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm

thanks for ever thing im doing a report for history and all the info was nice.you made the report easy thanks!!

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Ray February 18, 2010 at 10:16 am

so i need some help with getting primary resources…
any ideas?

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KEN KAMPFF February 19, 2010 at 2:03 pm

The army came in after the iland was secured as we left the beach they were on it seating around waiting to take over.

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Mel Clare February 19, 2010 at 2:09 pm

They needed the airstrips for the B 20’s flying out of Saipan as an emergency strip. It saved hundreds of flyboys lives whose planes would not have gotten back to Saipan or Tinian or Guam.

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Mel Clare February 19, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I went to the grand opening of the National D Day museum in New Orleans in June of 2000. I had one of Stephen Ambrose’s books “D-Day, June 6, 1944 with me. Decided to get some autographs from some of the vets there, sat down with 3 of them and thier wives at a little restaurant and had breakfast…….and they were Doug Jacobson, Hershel Williams and Jack Lucas!!!!!! All Medal Of Honor winners at Iwo jima. I sat there in awe and listend to thier stories till almost noon!!!! Mr. Jacobson passed later that year, Mr Lucas passed from us in June of 2008, mr. WIlliams is still with us today. These men and all those who served in our Armed fforces of ANY branch deserve our respect, admiration and thanks whenever and wherever we meet them. I am doing this by my book of signatures. I also have Walter Ehlers MOH recipient from Normandy. I am a 12 year Navy vet and love this country and the people who serve it as military personal! Please give thankd to any vet you meet, they deserve a thank you, handshake and a smile!

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Marangeli lopez February 22, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Well I find this info somewhat useful. I lmstrobgly disagree with whoever said that the marines got all the glory and the army got nothing. Look people army navy marines air force coast guard national guard, did I miss any?? Well they all do the sand thing wich is protect our country. I am personally a fan if the Army myself but look. It does not matter which branch did it, the only thing thAt matters is that because of these wonderful men and women out there fighting for our freedom everyday… We have what we want. It sounds selfish but everyone is like that, all ecxept these brave people who do so much. I love our military !! 65thanniversary Iwo Jima tomorrow!! To think tha. I would never have known about iwo jima if it was not for Robbie( my talking walking encyclopedia) gad not told me. Now I feel bad!!

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Jim Morse February 23, 2010 at 10:57 am

My dad was on Iwo Jima with the 5th Marine Division. I still have a hardcover book on this most famous battle. It’s called “The Spearhead.” I was 2 1/2 years old when he came back from Iwo, but I can still remember the screams in the middle of the night. One night when I was 3 to 4 years old my mom hit my dad with a lamp because he tried to strangle her. There were many nightmares for years later. They finally subsided, but I believe that battle was what made my dad a drinker. He was wounded during the battle, but was one of seven survivors from his Company. Thank you God for bringing him home. Every year at this time I pray for all who served on Iwo. They were true heroes.

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rene ahumada February 23, 2010 at 3:06 pm

My childhood was spent with an Iwo Jima veteran, I heard the same old story every supper, over and over. I always wished to be in that battle, just for the thrill or to turn insane. Those ones who claim to be patriotics, heroistics or America, democracy, free world defenders already know that that there is a price to cover. And all of us, Iwo Jima related ones find it affordable. Long live LCT crews and teen age sailors!!!

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