The Battle – The Land Battle

D-Day February 19, 1945 – Shortly before 2am on Feb. 19, 1945, the Navy’s big guns opened up on Iwo Jima again, signaling the beginning of D-Day. After an hour of punishment, the fire was lifted, leaving Iwo smoking as if the entire island were on fire.

Both Americans aboard their transports and the Japanese in their caves looked to the skies now. One-hundred-ten bombers screamed out of the sky to drop more bombs. After the planes left, the big guns of the Navy opened up again.

At 8:30am, the order, “Land the Landing Force,” sent the first wave of Marines towards the deadly shores. Once ashore, the Marines were bedeviled by the loose volcanic ash. Unable to dig foxholes, they were sitting ducks for the hidden Japanese gunners.

Heavy fire made it impossible to land men in an orderly manner. Confusion reigned on the beaches.

The battle was unique in its setting. One hundred thousand men fighting on a tiny island one-third the size of Manhattan. For 36 days Iwo Jima was one of the most populated 7.5 miles on earth.

Mt. Suribachi, the 550-foot volcanic cone at the islands southern tip, dominates both possible landing beaches. From here, Japanese gunners zeroed in on every inch of the landing beach. Blockhouses and pillboxes flanked the landing areas. Within, more heavy weapons stood ready to blast the attacking Marines. Machine guns criss-crossed the beaches with deadly interlocking fire. Rockets, anti-boat and anti-tank guns were also trained on the beaches.Every Marine, everywhere on the island was always in range of Japanese guns.

The Japanese were ready.

The invading US Marines fought above ground. The defending Japanese fought from below ground. The US Marines on Iwo rarely saw a Japanese soldier.

There were no front lines. The Marines were above ground and the Japanese were below them underground. The Marines rarely saw an alive Japanese soldier. The Japanese could see the Marines perfectly.

“Easy Company started with 310 men. We suffered 75% casualties. Only 50 men boarded the ship after the battle. Seven officers went into the battle with me. Only one–me–walked off Iwo.” . . . Captain Dave Severance, Easy Company Commander (the Flag Raising Company)

The battle was won by the inch-by-inch tenacity of the foot soldier. It was a physical war.

Liquid gas, napalm and hand grenades were more useful against the underground Japanese.

Historians described U.S. forces’ attack against the Japanese defense as “throwing human flesh against reinforced concrete.”

229 thoughts on “The Battle – The Land Battle

  1. Lin East

    my dad just turned 98- survived Iwo- all of those men and women who wore the uniform are my heroes-
    God Bless them all.

    Reply
    • Bobbie Miller Roberts

      God Bless your father. My dad also fought in the South Pacific. He was a Paratrooper. He passed away at the age of 82, He had nightmares until the day he died. How Blessed you are to still have your father. Bless all of our Vets from every war & those who still fight for our freedom!

      Reply
  2. Becky

    My father fought on Iwo Jima. I remember when I was a kid asking my Dad why he chose the Marines to Join, He simply said “because they are the Best”. He was so proud of having served with the Marines. The saying once a Marine, always a Marine is so true, you could see it in my Dad until the day he passed away in 2000. And I have no doubt that he still is. Semper Fi!

    Reply
  3. Emma

    Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of the d-day landing on Iwo Jima. The brave men who fought on that island are my heroes. God bless them all. We owe so much to them.
    If there are any Iwo Jima veterans reading this–thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    This battle has always intrigued me. I love reasearching and reading about it. When someone says Iwo Jima or anything about the flagraising, its like a chord strikes inside of me. That might be a little unusual for a 17 year old girl, but i’m a very patriotic young American and there’s not a more patriotic feeling than when you read or hear about the unselfish, unimaginable sacrifices these young men made for our country. One of the things that intrigues me most is the fact that Iwo was the bloodiest battle in the history of our country and yet there were more Medals of Honor awarded for that battle than any other in our country’s history. I think Alexander Hamilton’s statement explains it best, “There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty that makes human nature rise above itself in acts of bravery and heroism.” There’s just something about liberty! Thank-you again to all who have served our great country, on Iwo Jima or on any other battle. You hold my utmost respect.

    Reply
    • Bobbie Miller Roberts

      Emma, you are an inspiration to all of us. I pray there are more young people out there, who are as Patriotic as you. So many men & women have fought & still fight for our freedom, even more have died. God Bless them all and thank you to each & every one of them. My dad fought in WWII and my sister in Vietnam. I am very patriotic and am proud to call USA my home!!!!!

      Reply
  4. Ken holden

    These were 20 yr old kids,some had seen this sort of mess before, some veterans..remember sgt basilione?..who went back after Guadalcanal and died at Iwo?…still alive next day first thing? So..noise,hot volcanic sand, ping of bullets,yr pal..suddenly silent,look left and another disappears in a shell burst ,the smell of the place..sulphurous land ,bodies,no sanitation,machine gun fire..all the time…..the sun starts to set,everyone’s moved up a hundred yards,it’s dark………dayssss later….your still here 500 hundred yards further……can you feel your hands tighten up? A bit of a shake? These were your Grandfathers generation..that’s what they were stuck with.Are we lucky,or what?

    Reply
  5. cyndy

    PFC Jack Fossum was my moms cousin. he died march 2 1945 at Iwo Jima. she never got over his death. Jack, you are remembered with pride and love. we will never forget you.

    Reply
  6. nathan smithtro

    my grand father was with the us 6 marines 1st platoon when he landed the japs didnt fire at the army when his company was ordered to move off the beach they fired his brother lost his head by a shell from his men in his boat landed him and 6 others made it out he even killed 34 japs by himself that day he sayed it was a nother version of hell

    Reply
  7. Jauhn Hinkle

    My dad will be 98 May 26. 5th Division, 27th regiment, H company. We’re curious as to whether anyone knows of an older survivor? There’s a ton of stuff on “Mr. Samowitz” who died at 99 last December, but nothing on who would hold that honor now…. Any help would be appreciated, commemorative this Saturday.
    619-952-9141

    Reply
    • David Moore

      My wife’s dad is still alive, he was a Marine who went in on the 4th wave. He was on the island thirty some days and his feet rotted in his boots. He is at Covenant Village in Westminster, Colorado and his health is diminishing. His name is Richard Hitzeman. His company had about 80-90% casualties.

      Not many of these guys left now.

      David

      Reply
  8. roger soule

    My father, M. Philip Soule was in the 506th AAA US Army Gun Battalion “A” battery attached to the 3rd division Marines that landed on Iwo Feb 25th 1945. I don’t hear a lot about the Army’s involvement on the Island. My dad always talked highly of the Marines and enjoyed the reunions his unit had each year.

    Reply
    • Dan MacDonald

      Roger,

      Bob Kemp of Greensboro, NC, who died three years ago, is featured in two chapters of a book I’m writing. Bob was with Battery A at the foot of Suribachi on Iwo Jima. If your Dad was in Bob’s group, that means he got to Iwo on LST 84.

      I would really like to correspond with you. Do you have any photos from your Dad’s time on Iwo?

      I have access now to a number of photos from the two surviving members of the 506th on Iwo, or the only two I’m aware of, plus a good number from the son of James Weaver, who was a sailor aboard LST 84.

      Please contact me,

      Dan MacDonald

      865-573-6981

      Reply
      • Randy Jordan

        Dan,

        My father, Virgil Jordan, was Captain of A Battery, 506th AAA. He passed away in 2001 but I have transcribed some of his stories and am about to re-take some of the photographs he had of his time in Hawaii and I believe on Iwo Jima, too. I haven’t inventoried the images yet so I don’t know exactely what is in the box he kept them in. I didn’t get access to this material until recently as it was part of my mother’s estate and I was one of the executors of it.

        What kind of material are you looking for and is your book specifically about the 506th? I have the order awarding my father, a Lt. and a Sgt. the Army Soldiers Medal for pulling a pilot out of a fighter plane that crashed in their battery position. This ocurred after the war ended but it is an interesting read.

        I’ll try to look at the documents and photos related to the Iwo campaign this weekend so I know more about what is included, in case you are interested in any of this material. I’ll check back here now again in case you reply – this year.

        Randy Jordan

        Reply
        • Roger Soule

          I wonder if this is the plane my father spoke about hitting the mess hall. The pilot died a day or 2 later and your gather was hurt and was sent home after 2 weeks or so. I have a pic of that day.

          Reply
      • Kathy

        Hi Dan,

        My grandfather Lindsay Ford Baker was in the 506th AAA Gun Bn, Battery B – I believe he was also attached to a marine unit and spent about six months at Iwo Jima. He died in 1976 – and I don’t know much about his service other than what my uncle has told me and what I’ve been able to piece together. I do have some pictures of his time there… here’s a link.

        https://www.flickr.com/photos/freelulu/sets/72157647518564138

        If you respond, I’d love to see any information you might have had as well!

        Reply
  9. Lin East

    As we get closer to VJ Day- we should all stop for a moment to thank every one of those brave men and women who saved the world- and also every one who has ever or is now serving. We owe them more than we know!

    Reply
  10. Pvt. Miller

    thank god for those marines. i have always been into history and my favorite battle was iwo jima i have always been fascinated on how men and woman are able to make the greatest sacrifice giving up off your life for others but now i understand thank you marines of iwo jima

    Reply
  11. Dick Schweder

    Growing up, most the kids in the neighborhood had fathers that served in WWII. (Both my parents served). My friend, Kelly’s father was on Iwo Jima. When I became an adult, Bill Survant went from authority figure to friend and I enjoyed for a couple, or three years a Saturday morning tradition of breakfast with him, Kelly, our brothers, nieces and nephews and children and my father. I’ll never forget one Sat. I asked Bill how he had such a positive outlook on life having seen the ugliness of that battle and others. I’ll never forget what he said. He said he recalled leaving the island and thinking from here on out the rest of life will be a piece of cake. Bill and my Father (European theater) are both gone and the Saturday breakfast with them. I miss them and think of them often and continue to be grateful for what they did.

    Reply
    • Karen Pearson Dyson

      Hi,
      Enjoyed reading your story, my brother Richard Pearson age 17 landed on Iwo Jima and was one of the machine gunners that protected the guys when they raised the flag. I think that out of that group only 23 survived. He was almost to small when he wanted to enlist but by about 1/2″ he made it. He was to come home on the 14 of March birthday 11th of March and was killed on the 13th of March age 18. I was only 7 yrs. old but remember veryly clearly the telegram coming and couldn”t figure why my mother was crying as she read it. He is buried in the Punchbowl
      Cemetery in Honolulu as they moved them from Iwo after the war and she & dad didn’t want to go through the ordeal again so that is why they choose to put him in Hawaii. I haven’t been there to see his grave but hope to go before I join him in heaven.

      Reply
  12. John Haas

    My Dad was John F. Haas 4th Division 3rd 25th. He has long been passed, cancer took him in 10/27/1983 but I’m very proud of him. I don’t know if anyone has info concerning him or knew him it would be great to learn more. As with all the other brave Marines he just always said it was their duty and never talked much about it.

    Reply
  13. Melissa Strout Kennedy

    My Dad Phillip F. Strout who is 93 years old was the Company sergeant for Easy Company 2/28th Marines. I would love to know if any of his fellow Easy Company friends are still alive! He still becomes very emotional when he begins to talk about the battle. I am so thankful for him and all the Marines that gave so much for our Country. I already called Dad to say thanks for going through such Hell on Iwo Jima to keep America Free!!! Love You Dad!!!

    Reply
    • Bart Ackerman

      Melissa,
      I would be greatly honored to talk to your Father. My Cousin, Cpl James E. Hagstrom, was in the 3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Company E, 2/28th Marines, 5th Marine Division – the same Company as your Father. Unfortuneatley, James was killed in action on 1 March. I believe Col. Severance, then Captain, the Company Commander is still alive and lives in San Diego. 5-6 of the members of the 3rd Platoon are still alive including the Plt Leader, Keith Wells, who lives in Texas. Here is a link to a photo of them. http://www.valorstudios.com/IwoJimaTheFirstFlag.htm

      Reply
  14. Carol L.

    My dad was on Iwo, Saipain, RoiNamur, Tinian. 4th division,
    3-L-24. Name: Del Reiman. His nickname in civilian life was Sarge. Watching his best friend get blown up in a foxhole next to him never left his heart. He was always proud of the Marines & attended the reunions at Camp Pendleton. Passed away of cancer in 1990. His lifelong best friend was fellow Iwo Marine, George Furchtsam.
    I believe he is still around. Dad somehow managed to be a tough but tender father. After what he saw & endured there, I don’t know how. God bless him & all Marines.

    Reply
    • Jeff Heckman

      I just saw this post . my father was also in 3-L-24 If you have their Red photo book
      my father is on the same page as yours . 4th row 2nd in . William Heckman page 94
      We owe them a lot

      jeff

      Reply
  15. Tom Cunningham

    My father was 3rd Div Marine Staff Sergeant Robert L. Cunningham. He fought at Bougainville and Guam. When fighting he was in an artillery division and when not fighting was a mess sergeant, he passed away in 2006.Are there any comments or anyone that remembers my Dad? He said it was terrible.

    Reply
    • Robert Steele

      Hi,

      My Father was also in the 3rd Marine Division throughout WWII. He was also a mess sgt who fought on Bouganville and Guam, Iwo, etc. My father also has past. His name was Don Steele. We’ll miss him every day.

      Reply
  16. William D. Shaffer

    My father William B. Shaffer, Cpl, served with the 3rd Div.21 Reg.
    He past away 29 Sept 2012. I see that there are some other sons
    that had relatives on Iwo Jima, Guam, and Bougainville. My father was an aide to Col William D. Bassett, who I was named after. If anyone knew of my father please contact me. I do have a number of pictures. One of his proudest moments came when his grandson Cpl J.V Shaffer was an escort on the 59th anniversary on Iwo and brought him back some sand. Thanks to all that serve….

    Reply
  17. Terry

    My father also passed away in December. He was in the 5th Marine Division, 2/28 Battalion, F Company. He was a great father and he also had his experiences there documented. His name is Harry J. Kelley.

    Reply

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