The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the most difficult and costliest engagements of the Pacific Theater during World War II. U.S. marines and naval personnel endured more than 27,000 casualties and over 6000 fatalities in the span of 36 days. Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers defending the island, only a handful would be captured alive. Many were killed, and the remaining few managed to hold out until well after a peace agreement had been signed.
Iwo Jima was a major turning point in the Pacific Theater and one that would go down in history for more reasons than one. If your loved one served in Iwo Jima, Popular Patch has hundreds of Iwo Jima hat and jacket patches to help you recognize their service and memorialize them in a truly fitting way.
Iwo Jima’s Purpose in WWII
Iwo Jima is a small volcanic island that was first sighted by European explorers in 1543. In World War II, it was a Japanese possession that maintained airfields for the defense of the home islands. Fighter aircraft from this location could intercept U.S. bombers assaulting the Japanese empire’s war industry. To protect U.S. pilots and provide them with a close landing area, military officials came to the conclusion that Iwo Jima needed to be captured.
Japanese General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, on the other hand, intended to make the island into a defensive meat grinder, causing enough Allied casualties to deter an attempt at an invasion of Japan. The eight-square-mile island was honeycombed with tunnels, allowing easy access to artillery and heavy machine gun emplacements that covered every inch of the island.
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A Short History of the Battle at Iwo Jima
The U.S. began Operation Detachment on the 19th of February, 1945. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine divisions landed on the beaches in a shockingly calm environment. In the days and months preceding, there had been large-scale aerial and naval bombardments of the island. Some assumed this had eliminated the defenders, but the well-entrenched Japanese defensive system remained. After waiting an hour for U.S. soldiers and their weapons to pile up on the beaches, the Japanese opened fire with every gun they had, causing massive casualties and great disruption at the landing sites.
The Marines fought valiantly, crossing the island and capturing the formidable Mt. Suribachi in the first few days. On the summit, photographer Joseph Rosenthal captured one of the most iconic American images of six men of the 28th Marine regiment raising the American flag. “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” was the first photograph to win the Pulitzer prize in the same year of its publication. Of the six men in the photograph, only three would survive the battle, while the other three returned to the U.S. as heroes.
Over the next month, the Marines fought a frightening close-quarter battle, clearing the Japanese from the intricate tunnel system by relying on explosives and flamethrowers to flush the enemy out. Due to a lack of supplies, the Japanese began to employ “banzai charges,” fierce but futile assaults that infiltrated Marine lines at night, forcing hand-to-hand combat. Offshore, the supporting U.S. naval vessels experienced “kamikaze” suicide attacks from Japanese aircraft.
On March 25th, 1945, Kuribayashi and 300 of his men launched one last banzai attack. There were many casualties during this final struggle, but the Marines ultimately prevailed. The next morning, the U.S. military announced that Iwo Jima had been captured. In reality, however, American forces would go on to spend weeks trying to flush out the last few Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender.
In the aftermath of Iwo Jima, 22 medals of honor were awarded to Marines, and five were awarded to Navy sailors.
One of the Many Heros of Iwo Jima: Herschel Williams
One of the most outstanding men that fought on the island was Herschel Williams of West Virginia. Williams was drawn to the Marines simply because he liked the bright blue uniforms more than the drab colors of the Army. Herschel managed to knock out several Japanese pillboxes with only four remaining Marines to provide cover, continuously returning to his position to refuel his flamethrower before charging forward again despite enemy fire raining down around him.
Honoring the Soldiers of Iwo Jima
After the war, Joseph Rosenthal’s iconic photo, “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima,” was used as a model for what we know today as the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, VA. The imagery of the soldiers securing the American flag into places has since become a sign of perseverance and determination in American culture and one that clearly demonstrates the struggle those men faced during that long and bloody fight.
Popular Patch has countless patches to commemorate the “greatest generation” of men who fought for our freedom at Iwo Jima, like the LPH-2 LHD-7 USS Iwo Jima Patch and the USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams T-ESB-4 MOH Patch. Check out these patches and many more by visiting our inventory.
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