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Flags Of Our Fathers - JUST A MOP-UP?

JUST A MOP-UP? (Illustration) American History Famous Historical Events Geography World War II Film

Despite the Allies' best efforts to "soften-up" Japan's defenses on Iwo Jima, the battle for the key island was brutal and far from just a "mop-up" (as U.S. military officials had hoped). In this scene, we see litter bearers getting the wounded to aid stations. The picture appears in Iwo Jima: Amphibious Epic (a USMC Historical Monograph by Lt. Col. Whitman S. Bartley, USMC), at page 128.

 

To lessen the need for hand-to-hand combat, the U.S. Navy and Army/Air Force engaged in final pre-battle preparations:

  • For 74 consecutive days, beginning on the 8th of December, 1944, B-24s (from the U.S. Seventh Air Force) bombed Iwo Jima, and other islands, in the area.

  • Pre-H-Hour (when hostilities commence) naval bombardment pounded Iwo’s beaches. Much of the ordered bombing never took place, however, due to weather issues.

  • The Seventh Air Force dropped 500-pound bombs on airfield number 2.

  • Naval gunfire areas attempted to lessen the defenders’ impact on the Marines.

  • As the initial wave of troops made for shore in their LVTs (tracked landing vehicles), with support ships in the foreground, Navy gunboats provided cover with rockets and 40mm shells.

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.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 01, 2006

Updated Last Revision: Mar 06, 2015


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