On this day in 1945, the Battle of Iwo Jima, or Operation Detachment began. Although bombardments had been taking place against the island for months before, February 19 was known as D-Day as 30,000 Marines landed on the beach. The previous bombardment had questionable success as the Japanese were so well entrenched and heavily fortified. Furthermore, the Japanese had been preparing for the battle since March 1944, giving them a head start.
Many of the Marines who landed on the beach in the first wave speculated that the naval and air bombardment of the island had killed all of the Japanese troops that were expected to be defending the island.In the deathly, eerie silence, they became somewhat unnerved as Marine patrols began to advance inland in search of the Japanese positions. Only after the front wave of Marines reached a line of Japanese bunkers defended by machine gunners did they take hostile fire.
After running out of water, food and most supplies, the Japanese troops became desperate toward the end of the battle, yet most Japanese soldiers fought to the death. “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” is a historic photograph taken on 23 February 1945 by Joe Rosenthal, depicting five Marines and a U.S Navy corpsman raising the flag of the United States atop Mount Suribachi, as thousands of surrounding Marines were given hope upon seeing the act of patriotism.
In the aftermath of the battle, of the 22,060 Japanese soldiers entrenched on the island, 18,844 died either from fighting or by ritual suicide, while the assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead.