IWO JIMA – – – After That Famous Flag Was Heroically Raised

Famous Rosenthal photo (with hero's names), of the victorious raising of the Flag on Mount Siribachi, Iwo Jima

Famous Rosenthal photo (with hero’s names), of the victorious raising of the Flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima

This impressive collection of WWII photographs located by Jim Purcell was originally put together by the President of the 7th Fighter Command Association, Mark Stevens, who is also the Director of Communications for the Iwo Jima Association of Renton, WA.  Please visit their home site right here to see even more inspiring photographs of the Iwo Jima action during the waning days of WWII.  We would like to commend them for doing all this tedious yet vital historical work and of making the photographs available to the public for its inspiration and education. THANK YOU, 7th FIGHTER!

Remember to click on any photo to see its full size and resolution.

Map showing location of Iwo Jima in relationship to Japan

Map showing location of Iwo Jima in relationship to Japan

The five U.S. Marines and sole Navy Corpsman (seen in the top photograph, along with each of their names, and whether they survived or not) raised the American flag over Mt. Suribachi five days after the landing on the black volcanic sand beach of this tiny atoll.  The small island is almost half way from the Mariana Islands towards Japan.  The flag raising photo is what most Americans, young and old alike, remember so well, since that historic photo froze for all time that inspiring moment in history.  It was taken by AP photographer, Joe Rosenthal and earned him the Pulitzer Prize that same year (1945) and is likely the most reproduced photo of all time.

Map of Iwo Jima showing where battle lines and invasion forces landed

Map of Iwo Jima showing where battle lines and invasion forces landed. Note the three airfields depicted in white.

Nevertheless, many people don’t have any idea exactly why this small island was targeted by the U.S. in its final push to defeat Japan, having just defeated both Nazi Germany and the Italian Fascists in Europe.  Many Japanese islands in the South Pacific were still in the enemy’s hands, but we nevertheless pushed past them to take on this highly fortified island using some 110,000 U.S. Military personnel.  After all, our Navy had no capacity to use this harbor-less island and the Army couldn’t employ it for troop-staging, either, since it was too small, but it was considered an essential stepping stone for the U. S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) in their plans to invade the Japanese mainland.

IwoJimaAirfieldDepictionsThe bloodshed from that five-week battle proved to be some of the most devastating in the entire war for both sides in the conflict.  Of the approximately 22,000 Japanese Imperial troops occupying the atoll, only 216 were captured alive at the end of the main push, although another 3,000 Japanese soldiers were later gradually discovered hiding in the immensely intricate labyrinth of tunnels and caves permeating almost every part of that remote 8 square mile abutment of rocky volcanic land rising out of the vast Pacific.  The slide show for which this history is written, will show you some of those caves.  Depiction in map at the left shows where the battle line has just pushed past the second airfield after the 8th day of fighting.

Hundreds of P-51 Mustangs and various bombers parked after airfields taken by Marines

Hundreds of P-51 Mustangs and various bombers seen parked after airfields were taken by Marines.                                            Click on this above photo to access the full slide show sent to us by Jim Purcell.

The American toll in capturing Iwo Jima, as you may recall, was also horrific, with 6,821 Marines and Corpsmen killed – – – and another 19,217 were wounded.

The Japanese had already built two major airfields on Iwo Jima (seem colored map just above and to the left of the above photo of the parked planes), both which were operational by the enemy at the time of the U. S. strike, and the Japanese had another one under construction on its Northernmost promontory (also seen in the colored map above the parked planes).

Even while the chaotic mayhem of battle went on, some of the Army’s first P-51 Mustang Fighters and a few of its huge B-29 Superfortress bombers arrived, once the landing strips had been sufficiently secured and the runway surface bombardment holes filled by the Marines and Navy Seabees.

A Boeing B-29 Superfortress and North American P-51 "Mustangs" burn furiously on a runway at Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands. The B-29, which was returning from a bombing mission on 24. April 1945, developed engine trouble over the island, and, while attempting to make an emergency landing, crashed into nine P-51s parked on the runway. Four of the Mustangs were destroyed and five were damaged. The bomber was from the 39th Bomb Squadron, 504th Bomb Group, 313th Bomb Wing, based on Tinian, Marianas Islands.

A Boeing B-29 Superfortress and North American P-51 “Mustangs” burn furiously on a runway at Iwo Jima, part of the Bonin Island archipelago. The B-29, which was returning from a bombing mission on 24. April 1945, developed engine trouble over the island, and, while attempting to make an emergency landing, crashed into nine P-51s parked on the runway. Four of the Mustangs were destroyed and five were damaged. The bomber was from the 39th Bomb Squadron, 504th Bomb Group, 313th Bomb Wing, based on Tinian, Marianas Islands. The subject slide show, from which this (above) photo was taken, was clearly put together by someone who was in the midst of all the Iwo Jima Air Forces action, since there is a great amount of detail regarding precise dates and name of those pictured.

For some reason, we rarely encounter photos of what transpired during the operations of those USAAF Fighter groups and the heavy bombers they were there to escort and protect, while flying their high risk missions deep into the Japanese mainland’s fiercely protected homeland air space.

313th Bomb Wing B-29 being escorted by unidentified 7th Fighter Command P-51 Mustangs from Iwo Jima to Japan

313th Bomb Wing B-29 being escorted by unidentified 7th Fighter Command P-51 Mustangs from Iwo Jima to Japan

FASF story and photo scout, James Purcell, of Detroit, has discovered this fascinating and rarely seen historic photo collection of the Air Force’s activities during those early days of operations out of Iwo Jima’s two main airfields.  The carnage wasn’t just dished out by the Fighter and Bombardment groups housed there, as the following photo album will reveal, because, in the midst of their early flight operations, the Army’s aviation personnel were still sometimes attacked or bombarded by mortars from the remaining Japanese troops still alive and fighting from isolated pockets of resistance across the atoll.  There were, as these intriguing photos display, also many airplane crashes resulting when crippled Fighters and Bombers tried to land at the end of their missions over Japan, as can be seen immediately below.  Mr. Purcell’s discovery of this 7th Fighter Command Association photo collection will show you many more of the results of those mishaps.

Wreckage of Lt. Dalquist's North American P-51 "Miss Jo III" of the 78th FS, 15th Fighter Group, which cracked-up" at the 7th Air Force base on Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands on 10 March 1945.

Wreckage of Lt. Dalquist’s North American P-51 “Miss Jo III” of the 78th Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group, which cracked-up at the 7th Air Force base on Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands on 10 March 1945.

We think you will be fascinated to get this rare peek into what transpired during those final days of WWII on that small Japanese island for which both our enemy and we paid such a high price.  The offensive sorties made from Iwo Jima over Japan helped, strategically, preoccupy the enemy enough to facilitate our next conquest, which was Okinawa, an Island air base even closer to the Japanese mainland.

Marines gaze out by the Suribachi Flag to the North over Iwo Jima battlefield

Marines by the Suribachi Flag look out to  the North over Iwo Jima battlefield. Suribachi is the Southern tip of island.

The “Enola Gay” and its sister ship, the “Bockscar” took off from Tinian Island, in the Mariana Island Chain, much farther South near Guam, but had Iwo Jima and Okinawa as planned emergency backup airfields should their plans go awry.  The “Enola Gay” flew right over Iwo Jima on its historic route to Hiroshima where, on August 6, 1945, it dropped the world’s first nuclear device, “Little Boy.”  Despite weeks of heavy ‘warning to civilian’ leaflet dropping over Japan by waves of earlier bombers – and the holocaust of that first nuclear Hiroshima device, Japan refused to surrender “unconditionally.”  However, three days later, when “Bockscar” dropped its “Fat Boy” atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan finally surrendered, thus ending the horrors of WWII.

Recent aircraft view of Mount Suribachi during peaceful times. Most of the scars of the war have vanished from view.

Recent aircraft view of Mount Suribachi during current times. Most of the scars of the war have vanished from view.

Here are some interesting USAAF statistics:  By the end of WWII almost 2400 B-29’s had made unscheduled emergency landings on Iwo Jima.  Before the invasion, the Island was bombarded continuously for more than two months to “soften” it for the landings, but those 74 days of bombardment proved almost useless, because the Japanese troops were too effectively protected by the extensive and intricate labyrinth of more than 11 miles of deeply placed tunnels and caves all throughout the small island.

We have studied all of the captions for the following slide-show’s rarely seen photographs, and have discovered a number of obvious errors and even a few repetitions, but we suspect you will catch them, also.

Purcell advises: Don’t use auto run, take your time and scroll thru each picture . . . just put your pointer on the picture to get the drop down info.  Click on the picture to see it in full size.  Some (of these) WW II Iwo Jima photos are not normally found in today’s “quick” history updates . . .”

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