Getting mail from home helped to boost the morale of the 4th Marine Division at Iwo Jima. This was their "post office." USMC Photo 111072.
The battle for Iwo Jima lasted more than a month. Rare photographs from the U.S. National Archives, and official U.S. military histories from the Department of Defense, reveal moments in this pivotal campaign:
- Carrier-based planes gave the attacking Marines ground support until March 11th. By that date, Army P-51s were in place on the island itself. The most firing power the Marines themselves had were 155mm Howitzers. By the time the island was secured, the big guns had fired a total of 43,795 rounds.
- Flamethrowers (who were easy - and valuable - targets for the defenders) had to keep attacking Japanese pillboxes and caves as the Marines attempted to secure the island. Advancing troops suspected, correctly, that wrecked Japanese planes provided hiding places for snipers.
- While 60mm mortar crews lobbed round after round (move the video forward to 5:45 for mortar animations) at enemy positions, other troops launched 4.5-inch rockets amidst peril-creating clouds of smoke and dust. Those telltale signs, of course, told the Japanese exactly where to direct their own artillery and mortars.
- Weary troops (from G Company, 2d Battalion, 24th Marines) rested behind the "protection" of a Sherman tank. Although most of the American attackers were boys, between the ages of 17-19, they grew up quickly amidst the relentless, deadly Japanese firepower.
- Charles H. Waterhouse, who retired from the Marines as a Colonel, was a wounded Private First Class during the battle for Iwo Jima. His painting, Silence in the Gorge, is a moving tribute to the impossible job Marines were expected to do. Flotsam and Jetsam is the title he chose to depict his lost sergeant, killed as he attempted to come ashore.
- Nearly a month after the flag-raising on Suribachi, the Marines planted an American flag on Hill 165, Kitano Point, at the north end of the island. As the official campaign ended, on the 26th of March, few troops had smiles on their faces as they displayed captured Japanese flags.
Before D-Day, Lt. General Holland Smith had said of the Iwo Jima battle:
It's a tough proposition. That's why my Marines are here.
After the battle was over, Howlin' Mad (Gen. Smith's nickname) surveyed the damage. His predictions had been deadly accurate. Iwo Jima, for him personally, was the last battle of his career.
Many of his men were Congressional Medal of Honor winners - the highest citation awarded by the United States - for their bravery at Iwo Jima.