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Iwo Jima

July 8, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

Iwo Jima means sulfur island. It's an island so small that if you were driving your vehicle at our present highway rate, it would take you 3 minutes 12 seconds to get from one end of the island to the other. It was however the site of some of the fiercest fighting of World War II. Such fighting that one in three marines at the battle of Iwo Jima was either killed or wounded. It is also the place where the famous picture of six men raising the American flag won the photographer a Pulitzer Prize. That photograph was used to sculpt the Marine Corps war memorial, which is located adjacent to Arlington national cemetery.

The battle of Iwo Jima began on February 19, 1945. The American flag was raised at Mount Suribachi on day four of a battle that lasted 36 days. Of the six men who raised the American flag atop Mount Suribachi, three did not live to see the battle won.

There were more Congressional Medals of Honor bestowed after the battle of Iwo Jima than any other battle in American history, a total of 27. The youngest recipient was 17. He'd lied about his age and enlisted at age 14!

There were 100,000 Navy and Marines at Iwo Jima. One in three were either killed or wounded, but the Japanese fared much worse. Out of 22,000 soldiers, only 1,083 survived (Japanese that weren't killed by the enemy often committed suicide). Very few surrendered.

The United States, on the premise that the armed forces would have to invade Japan (Operation Downfall), should they not win at Iwo Jima, prepared for heavy casualties. Some 1,506,000 purple hearts were made. Though Operation Downfall was abandoned when Japan surrendered after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the purple hearts made for that are still being used today!

Two Iowans, brothers, were ones that survived the battle and made it home. In 1942, both and Doug Barnett enlisted in the Marine Corps. Following boot camp, the brothers fought on Guadalcanal, and the Solomon Islands. On February 19, 1945, Bob and Doug were among the first marines to land on Iwo Jima. Just 600 miles from Tokyo, this small island was the last line of defense, and the Japanese were ordered to fight to the death. Following the battle they went back to Hawaii and regrouped, then left Pearl Harbor heading for Sasebo, Japan, the troops intending to hit Japan proper. Before they got there Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed and the war ended. Both Bob and Doug said that had the war not ended there, they estimated there would be a million and a half casualties that would never have made it out of Japan.



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