Essay Title: 

Iwo Jima (WWII), Thesis Statement: The battle of Iwo Jima enhanced American Military Air Operations in the Pacific

April 3, 2016 | Author: | Posted in american history, history

The Battle of Iwo Jima and American Military Air Operations

January 31 , 2007


The information herein describes the United States military efforts and reasons for the Battle of Iwo Jima . In addition to historical background information , attempts will be made to validate the idea that American military air operations were enhanced by this pivotal battle s of Japanese , as well as American , defensive and offensive techniques will be discussed in to understand the impact of this battle on the efforts of the American military departments

The Battle of Iwo [banner_entry_middle]

Jima , fought between the United States and

Japan , began in February 1945 and ended in March 1945 . This

battle was part of World War II , in the Pacific Campaign . The

main concept of this battle was to provide a tactical advantage

against Japan . The seizure of this island would give the United

States this advantage

Iwo Jima is one of many islands that were owned and

controlled by Japan . It is a volcanic island whose Japanese-

based name translates to `sulfur island ‘ During the war against

Japan , Iwo Jima proved to be a threat to United States bombers

The Pacific Campaign became a serious focal point of United

States military leaders . The war against Japan was escalating

Major decisions had to be made in to continue effective

warfare . The United States ‘ invasion of Iwo Jima became known as

Operation Detachment , and lasted 36 days

Under Japanese control , Iwo Jima was a warning station

Reports of incoming U .S . bombers could be radioed back to the

mainland of Japan . This allowed the Japanese to prepare their

air defenses . To the Japanese , Iwo Jima was important because it

provided a base for Japanese aircraft to intercept the United States B-29 bombers . It also provided a safe place for damaged

naval units

United States military officials , particularly those of the

Air Force , believed that the capture of Iwo Jima would provide a

tactical advantage against Japan , and the future invasion of the

mainland . The airbases on Iwo Jima could provide a base for

fighter planes to leave to escort the B-29 bombers on their route

to Japan . As an added benefit , damaged aircraft could have a

place to land in the event of an emergency . Planes low on fuel

and supplies could land , re-fuel , and re-stock . The United

States could use the air bases on Iwo Jima to engage in more

intensive air bombarding

Admiral Chester Nimitz issued a staff study , during October

1944 , for early planning purposes . The main idea of Operation

Detachment was to maintain vast military pressure against Japan

There were three tasks specifically foreseen in this study : the

reduction of enemy naval and air strength and reduction of

industrial facilities the destruction of Japanese air and naval

strength in the Bonin Islands the capture , occupation , and

subsequent defense of Iwo Jima to develop it into an air base

Nimitz ‘s study stated : long range bombers should be

provided with fighter support at the earliest practicable time

and that Iwo Jima was admirably situated as a fighter base for

supporting long range bombers (USPFPOA , 1944

The Battle of Iwo Jima was a joint collaboration between all

the U .S . military departments . The Navy provided the ship to

ground assault . The Air Force provided the air to ground

bombing . The Marines , particularly those of the 3rd , 4th , and 5th

Marine divisions of the V Amphibious Corps , provided the ground


Initial bombing took place two months prior to the ground

landings . It continued all the way to D-day . The beginning of

D-day was signaled by battleship guns from the water . Sea-to-Air

assaults paused while 100 bombers in the sky attacked

Battleship attacks then resumed . During this pre-landing

assault , it was unknown that there was little damage inflicted on

the Japanese soldiers ‘ defense points . Later it was found that

the most effective means of bombing the Japanese on the island

was the usage of napalm bombs

General Tadamichi Kuribayashi had adopted an unconventional

means of defending the island . Kuribayashi employed mining

engineers to draw up plans for an elaborate system of caves

tunnels and underground fortresses . These measures prevented

normal U .S . bombing techniques from being an effective means to

neutralize the enemy ‘s forces

In addition to troop reinforcements , General Kuribayashi

received large quantities of artillery and anti-tank weaponry

By the end of 1944 , he had an estimated 361 artillery pieces of

75 mm or larger caliber , twelve 320 mm mortars , 65 medium and

small mortars that ranged from 159 mm to 81 mm , 33 naval guns

and 94 anti-aircraft guns . He also received a large variety of

rockets and rocket guns

After a three day bombing assault , Marines landed on the

beaches of Iwo Jima , ready for battle . They did not receive any

enemy resistance while on the beaches . After advancing

approximately 500 yards up the island , the Marines encountered

heavy automatic weapon fire . Because of Kuribayashi underground

trenches , U . S . forces could not see the enemy that was shooting

at them . The Japanese troops , however , had full view of

everything that was going on , from their stations in the hills

and mountains of Iwo Jima

Kuribayashi ‘s defensive techniques were unexpected

Therefore , it was determined that the bombing strategies used by

air and sea support had to be amended to include more effective

means of taking out the enemy ‘s underground fortresses . The

napalm bombs proved to be quite effective

The Marines had a well stocked supply of ammunition , but for

combat , the flamethrower was extremely effective in neutralizing

the stations of Japanese troops hiding in their caves and


The Battle of Iwo Jima was the only Marine battle where the

Japanese casualties were substantially less than the American

casualties . As such , it was one of the bloodiest battles in

Marine history . The Marines had suffered 23 , 157 casualties

with 5 , 885 dead . The Navy suffered 2 , 798 casualties , with 881


The major end result , in terms of air operation enhancement

was that a new bombing tactic had been discovered , and

implemented in the attacking of Japan . High-altitude air bombing

had showed that little damage could be done using standard bombs

Lower level strikes using night cover and napalm bombs proved to

be highly effective . The enormity of the final casualty lists

from Iwo Jima made it a priority that if an alternative means of

ending the war could be found , then it should be pursued

(Antill , 2001 . The combination of the napalm bombs and the

atomic bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki provided an end to

World War II

While air operations had proved to be generally in effective

in the beginning , largely due to misleading intelligence reports

each department of the U . S . military forces found ways to adapt

to the situation . Using the trial and error information gathered

from the Battle of Iwo Jima , military officials were able to

develop effective means to continue the war , making each

subsequent battle more effective

Other than the massive amounts of lives that were lost in

the Battle of Iwo Jima , there were some other details that

presented themselves after the battle . In planning for the

invasion on Iwo Jima , the main driving point was that the

airbases on the island would provide a useful place for fighter

escorts of the B-29 bombers . In fact , only a handful of these

missions ever left from Iwo Jima

USMC Captain Robert Burrell (2004 ) suggested that only a

small amount of the landings on Iwo Jima were actually

emergencies . Most landings were for technical evaluations

training , and refueling . He commented on the importance of the

island as a refueling and landing site for bombers stating

This justification became prominent only after the Marines seized the island and incurred high casualties . The tragic cost of Operation Detachment pressured veterans , journalists , and commanders to fixate on the most visible rationalization for the battle . The sight of the enormous , costly , and technologically sophisticated B-29 landing on the island ‘s small airfield most clearly liked Iwo Jima to the strategic bombing campaign . As the myths about the flag raisings on Mount Suribachi reached legendary proportions , so did the emergency landing theory in to justify the need to raise that flag

The Army Air Force wanted a base from which fighter planes

could provide escort to B-29 bombers that were on missions to

Japan . However , Iwo Jima was quite a distance away from most of

the Japanese targets . Most of the fighter planes , including the

new P-51 did not have the equipment to suit that particular

purpose . In addition , the B-29 bombers , in all actuality , did

not need an escort . They were powerful enough on their own . In

modern parlance , you might say that Iwo Jima was a battle of

choice waged on the basis of faulty intelligence and inadequate

plans (Boot , 2005


Antill ,

(Apr . 2004 ) The Battle for Iwo Jima . Accessed Jan . 29 , 2007 at HYPERLINK “http /www .historyofwar .org /articles /battles_iwojima .html http /www .historyofwar .org /articles /battles_iwojima .html

Boot , Max (Mar . 2005 ) Rethinking the Iwo Jima Myth . Council on Foreign Relations . Accessed Jan . 29 , 2007 at HYPERLINK “http /www .cfr .org /publication /7904 /rethinking_the_iwo_jima_myth .html http /www .cfr .org /publication /7904 /rethinking_the_iwo_jima_myth .html

Burrell , Robert (2004 ) Breaking the Cycle of Iwo Jima Mythology : A Strategic Study of Operation Detachment . The Journal of Military History . 68 (4 ) pp . 1143-1186

United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas . Operation Detachment (Iwo Jima (Oct . 1944 ) in Steven T . Ross , U .S . War Plans 1939-1945 . Malabar , Fla : Kreiger Pub . Co , 2000

World War II (2007 . In Encyclopedia Britannica . Retrieved Jan . 29 2007 , from Encyclopedia Britannica Online : HYPERLINK “http /www .britannica .com /eb /article-53603 http /www .britannica .com /eb /article-53603

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