Warfare History Network
After the Battle of Iwo Jima, a decades-long debate wrestled with the question as to whether its capture was worth the cost.
How the Horrific Battle of Iwo Jima Saved Countless American Lives
On February 19, 1945, thousands of American Marines hit the beaches on the Volcano Islands in the Pacific, starting what we call today the Battle of Iwo Jima. Taking the small island, encompassing only about eight square miles, required the commitment of 70,000 American fighting men and 26,000 casualties, over 6,800 of them killed.
The island itself is situated only 650 nautical miles south of the Japanese capital of Tokyo, and the defenders of this steaming, sulfurous piece of land shaped like a pork chop fought to the death. Nearly 19,000 Japanese troops were killed in action, and only 216 were taken prisoner.
The Focus of the Pacific Theater
This otherwise obscure piece of real estate would ordinarily attract no attention at all. However, by early 1945 Iwo Jima was the focus of the costly war in the Pacific, now in its fourth bloody year. Iwo Jima’s proximity to Japan made it an ideal staging area for American forces that were inching closer to the home islands, anticipating a massive amphibious invasion that would ultimately thwart the territorial ambitions of Imperial Japan.