The Battle for Iwo Jima

U.S. Marines invaded Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945, after months of naval and air bombardment. The Japanese defenders of the island were dug into bunkers deep within the volcanic rocks. Approximately 70,000 U.S. Marines and 18,000 Japanese soldiers took part in the battle. The Battle for Iwo Jima was an epic military campaign between U.S. Marines and the Imperial Army of Japan in early 1945.

Located 750 miles off the coast of Japan, the island of Iwo Jima had three airfields that could serve as a staging facility for a potential invasion of mainland Japan. American forces invaded the island on February 19, 1945, and the ensuing Battle of Iwo Jima lasted for five weeks. In some of the bloodiest fighting of World War II, it’s believed that all but 200 or so of the 21,000 Japanese forces on the island were killed, as were almost 7,000 Marines. But once the fighting was over, the strategic value of Iwo Jima was called into question.

According to postwar analyses, the Imperial Japanese Navy had been so crippled by earlier World War II clashes in the Pacific that it was already unable to defend the empire’s island holdings, including the Marshall archipelago. In addition, Japan’s air force had lost many of its warplanes, and those it had were unable to protect an inner line of defenses set up by the empire’s military leaders. This line of defenses included islands like Iwo Jima.

Given this information, American military leaders planned an attack on the island that they believed would last no more than a few days. However, the Japanese had secretly embarked on a new defensive tactic, taking advantage of Iwo Jima’s mountainous landscape and jungles to set up camouflaged artillery positions.

Although Allied forces led by the Americans bombarded Iwo Jima with bombs dropped from the sky and heavy gunfire from ships positioned off the coast of the island, the strategy developed by Japanese General Tadamichi Kuribayashi meant that the forces controlling it suffered little damage and were thus ready to repel the initial attack by the U.S. Marines.

Twenty-eight East Tennessee Marines and Sailors died in this five-week campaign — Anderson 1, Blount 2, Cumberland 1, Grainger 1, Greene 2, Hamilton 10, Hawkins 1, Knox 2, Marion 1, McMinn 1, Monroe 1, Sullivan 4, Washington 1.

­Name Branch County
Bright, Jess W. Marine Corps Hawkins
Burch, Harold D. Marine Corps Blount
Byrd Jr, Bernie T. Marine Corps Washington
Cannon, Ralph E. Marine Corps Greene
Carver, Clarence J. Marine Corps Blount
Clasby, Victor E. Navy Sullivan
Coppock, Cecil A. Marine Corps Knox
Eldridge, William F. Marine Corps Hamilton
Foley Jr., James H. Marine Corps Hamilton
Hass, Oliver Navy Marion
Helton Sr., Eugene S. Marine Corps McMinn
Herron, Edward W. Marine Corps Knox
Kerley, Everett R. Marine Corps Cumberland
Long, Horace J. Navy Grainger
Manning, Robert L. Marine Corps Hamilton
McCaslin, H. Richard Marine Corps Monroe
McDaniel, Clyde E. Marine Corps Hamilton
McIntosh, Robert B. Marine Corps Greene
McMillan, James E. Marine Corps Hamilton
Moyers, James L. Marine Corps Jefferson
Musick, Jerrel L. Marine Corps Sullivan
Mynatt, Andrew D. Marine Corps Hamilton
Neal, Thomas B. Marine Corps Sullivan
Russell, Fred O. Marine Corps Sullivan
Satterfield, William E. Marine Corps Hamilton
Simmons, William G. Marine Corps Hamilton
Stewart, Joseph H. Marine Corps Washington
Walsh, James P. Marine Corps Hamilton