To lessen the need for hand-to-hand combat, the U.S. Navy and Army/Air Force engaged in final pre-battle preparations:
Had the Navy’s big guns taken out the enemy and their fortifications? Were the earlier bomb runs enough to make the Marine’s job just a “mop-up?” What did the Japanese think (scroll down 50%) about the bombardment?
For two days we cowered like rats, trying to dig ourselves deeper into the acrid volcanic dust and ash of Iwo Jima. Never have I felt so helpless, so puny, as I did during those two days. There was nothing we could do, there was no way in which we could strike back. The men screamed and cursed and shouted, they shook their fists and swore revenge, and too many of them fell to the ground, their threats choking on the blood which bubbled through great gashes in their throats. Virtually every last structure on Iwo Jima was torn to splintered wreckage. Not a building stood. Not a tent escaped. Not even the most dismal shack remained standing. Everything was blown to bits. The four fighter planes which had returned from our last sortie were smashed by shells into flaming pieces of junk.
As the first wave of Marines (many loaded down with one hundred pounds of weapons and gear) came ashore, hidden Japanese guns were silent. Kuribayashi’s orders held firm: No one fires until Iwo’s beaches are clogged with men and equipment. After an hour the silence was over. Everything changed as the island erupted in fire power from both sides.
When the defenders opened fire, everyone - especially the Marines - knew this would be no simple “mop-up” expedition.
US Marines pinned down at Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. USMC Photo.