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19 February 1945

19 February 1945

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19 February 1945



Eastern Front

2nd Belorussian Front attack in East Prussia stopped by the Germans.


US Marines invade Iwo Jima


Himmler begins secret efforts to make peace

Battle of Iwo Jima

The Battle of Iwo Jima (19 February – 26 March 1945) was a major battle in which the United States Marine Corps and Navy landed on and eventually captured the island of Iwo Jima from the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during World War II. The American invasion, designated Operation Detachment, had the purpose of capturing the island with its two airfields: South Field and Central Field.

  • Joint Expeditionary
    Force (TF 51)
  • Amphibious Support
    Force (TF 52)
  • Attack Force (TF 53)
  • Expeditionary
    Troops (TF 56)
  • 31st Naval Construction Battalion
  • 62nd Naval Construction
  • UDTs 12, 13, 14, and 15
  • Headquarters Group
  • 3rd Battalion, 17th Mixed Regiment
  • 26th Tank Regiment
  • 145th Infantry Regiment
  • Brigade Artillery Group

17,845–18,375 dead and missing [2]
216 taken prisoner [2]

The IJA positions on the island were heavily fortified, with a dense network of bunkers, hidden artillery positions, and 18 km (11 mi) of tunnels. [9] [10] The American ground forces were supported by extensive naval artillery and had complete air supremacy provided by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviators throughout the battle. [11] The five-week battle saw some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the Pacific War.

The Japanese combat deaths numbered three times the number of American deaths, but uniquely among Pacific War Marine battles, the American total casualties (dead and wounded) exceeded those of the Japanese. [12] Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima at the beginning of the battle, only 216 were taken prisoner, some of whom were captured only because they had been knocked unconscious or otherwise disabled. [2] Most of the remainder were killed in action, but it has been estimated that as many as 3,000 continued to resist within the various cave systems for many days afterwards until they eventually succumbed to their injuries or surrendered weeks later. [2] [13]

The strategic objectives were twofold. One was to provide an emergency landing strip for battle-damaged B-29s unable to make it back to US air bases in the Marianas, Tinian, Saipan, and Guam. The other was to provide air fields for fighter escorts, long-range P-51s to provide fighter coverage to the bombers. Lying roughly halfway between American Army Airforce bases in the Mariana Islands and the Japanese islands, the military base on Iwo Jima gave the Japanese an ability to send early air raid warnings to the Japanese mainland and launch fighters from its airfields to intercept raids.

The action was controversial, with retired Chief of Naval Operations William V. Pratt stating that the island was useless to the Army as a staging base and useless to the Navy as a fleet base. [14] The Japanese continued to have early-warning radar from Rota island, which was never invaded, [15] and the captured air field was barely used. Experiences with previous Pacific island battles suggested that the island would be well defended, and thus casualties would be significant.

Joe Rosenthal's Associated Press photograph of the raising of the US flag at the top of the 169 m (554 ft) Mount Suribachi by six US Marines became an iconic image of the battle and the American war effort in the Pacific. [16]

February 19, 1945: A Tsunami of Marines Hits Pacific Island of Iwo Jima!

On February 19, 1945, the most cracked battle in history of the United States Marine Corp (USMC) began with 30,000 Marines hitting a beach.

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper, and we mean digging deeper, we find the small Pacific Island of Iwo Jima fortified by about 22,000 Japanese soldiers who had spent the previous year creating an amazing array of tunnels and fortifications to prepare for the inevitable American assault.

The battle that would follow would result in the only time in USMC history where Marine casualties would outnumber those of the enemy! Although only 216 Japanese would survive the battle as prisoners (the other 22,000 having died), Americans suffered 26,000 casualties, of whom 6,821 were killed.

Despite targeting Iwo Jima with bombardment by air and sea for months in advance, the Japanese and their equipment were dug in so effectively that the preparation had little effect. Marine commanders had stated a requirement of 10 days of heavy naval bombardment (especially by the heavy guns of battleships), but always overestimating the effectiveness of their guns, the skeptical Navy brass only agreed to 3 days’ worth, and even then poor visibility resulted in even less pre-invasion “softening up,” which would have dire consequences as Japanese defenses were left mainly intact.

In this surreal battle of concealment, many Marines never saw a live Japanese soldier! Few Japanese were killed by bullets, with almost all of them killed by explosives, flame weapons or by being entombed in the tunnels!

Fighting to the death, neither side was interested in taking prisoners, and the ferocity and brutality of the fighting is considered the most extreme in Marine Corps history. Of the 82 Medals of Honor awarded to Marines in World War II, 22 were earned at Iwo Jima! (5 Navy corpsmen also were awarded Medals of Honor.)

Among the most famous photographs in all of history is the photo of Marines (and a corpsman) raising the American flag on top of Mount Suribachi. A little known part of that historic event is that the photo and moving-picture film taken at the same time are actually of the second flag raising!

The first flag was deemed too small, so a second larger one was raised. Three of the six men raising the flag died in battle at Iwo Jima. A famous statue based on the flag-raising photo and known as the Iwo Jima Memorial stands in Washington, D.C. and bears the words of Admiral Nimitz, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

The legacy of this horrific battle includes the very survival of the Marine Corps as a distinct branch of the armed forces, with Secretary of the Navy Forrestal saying, “the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years!”

Taking Iwo Jima meant Japanese fighter planes lost a base to attack American B-29 bombers that were on their way to bomb Japan, and conversely, American fighters could now be based there to protect the bombers. It also provided an emergency landing place for damaged U.S. planes.

So many books and movies and cultural references have been made about Iwo Jima that it is impossible to list them all here! Among the most notable include the John Wayne film Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), the two sister films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima (both 2006), both of which are based on the book Flags of Our Fathers, and the Johnny Cash song “Ira Hayes” (native American flag raising Marine). Semper Fidelis.

Question for students (and subscribers): Did you or any of your relatives fight in the Pacific Theater of World War II? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For both sides of the battle, please see…

Eastwood, Clint, dir. Letters from Iwo Jima [Blu-ray]. Warner Home Video, 2007. Blu-ray.

World Politics

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 8, 19 February 1945, p.ك.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Imperialist Big Three

The Big Three have met, conspired and plotted the division of Europe. Each of the three jockeyed for the most advantageous position on that continent for each knows that control and domination of the world lies through control and domination of Europe. They also know that the success of their plans is contingent upon many factors, most important of which is that the people of the continent quietly acquiesce and accept their decisions and “settlements.”

The decisions were real enough. The imperialists will get what they are after, the power to exploit the European masses. To these masses, however, they have presented a reiteration of, the principles of the Atlantic Charter, or, at any rate, one of these principles – “the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.” The Big Three pledged themselves to assist the European peoples in achieving this, even undertaking to “facilitate” the holding of elections.

What this promise is actually worth has already been demonstrated in those countries that have been “liberated” and where the people have been trying to put this principle into practice.

Struggle in Belgium

In Belgium, the Pierlot government, which had been imposed upon the Belgians and propped up by British and American tanks, fell because of complete lack of popular support. As Premier, Pierlot had disarmed the Belgian resistance movement, protected the collaborators, of whom the people wished to be rid (of the 100,000 arrested as collaborators, 12,000 have been sentenced and ten executed), maintained high prices and low wages.

Popular dissatisfaction with this policy forced Pierlot from office. He did not even wait for a vote in the Chamber of Deputies. In his speech, he blamed the situation in the country on the failure of the Allies to implement their promises of food deliveries to the hungry populace. The puppet reproached his masters. But he had fulfilled his duty – he disarmed the people – and when he was no longer able to hold them in check, he had to go.

The new government, headed by the so-called socialist, Van Acker, has announced that it will continue the policies of the Pierlot regime. The communists and socialists who entered this government are going to try to make these policies more palatable to the Belgian people, but this cannot work for long, since in Belgium, as in every country in Europe, obtaining the barest necessities of life – food and shelter – requires drastic social changes, beginning with a purge of the collaborators, who, in the main, are the wealthy industrial and. financial classes.

The Belgian miners, most oppressed and exploited section of the working class, are out on strike. From the start, the socialist and Christian Union leaders tried to get them to return to work. In the Charleroi district, the Revolutionary Communist Party (Trotskyist) is active in the strike, urging the workers to maintain their ranks, and spread the strike to other districts.

Italian Partisans

In northern Italy, still occupied by the Germans, Italian partisan groups have been fighting heroically to liberate their country. When the Allies considered that the offensive in Italy would clear the Germans out very quickly, they urged the partisans on, even supplying them with small amounts of arms and munitions. They also dropped from airplanes royalist officers who were to place themselves at the head of the partisan troops.

When the winter standstill on the Italian front set in, the Allies cut off all supplies to the partisans and advised them to go home. The Italian partisans have no home to which they can return, since these are in the hands of the Germans. They have no jobs waiting for them. To return to their native villages is tantamount to surrendering to the Germans.

The heroic partisans chose to remain in the hills and fight as best they can, exposed to the hunger and cold of the open country. They have been left to the mercy of the Germans. This does not in any way conflict with the Allied policy toward “liberated” Italy, since the smaller the number of self-liberated Italians, the smaller will be the “trouble”, from them one day when “free” elections are permitted.

Democracy: Allied Type

The promise of democracy by the Big Three, the promise of free elections, takes on the same pattern in, every country “liberated’’ by the Allies.

First – before anything else is even considered – comes the disarming of the resistance movement, of the people who fought and helped drive the Nazis from their lands. Examples: Greece, Belgium, France.

Where they cannot be disarmed, they are left to be killed by the Germans. Examples: Warsaw, Northern Italy.

Second – strengthen the reactionary regimes, support and prop up the monarchies, protect the collaborationists. This is called “restoring internal peace.” Then, when it can no longer be helped, permit an election and “facilitate” it to make sure that it goes right. To date, of course, no such elections have been held anywhere in Europe.

The European people have shown that they will not accept this without fighting back. This is the obstacle – plus the assistance given by the working people of England and the United States – that will yet upset the plans of the Big Three for the partition and domination of Europe.

Goch - the final objective Reichswald, 19th February 1945

Goch was planned as the Divisions final objective. The task fell to 153 Brigade. The town was very well fortified with many pill boxes and the river on one side and an antitank ditch covering the other three sides.

15 Scottish Division would clear north of the River Niers to east of Goch and 51 Highland Division the west including the town itself.

Order were given to the Brigade on the 18th February for an attack early on the 19th. The plan was for 5 Black Watch to attack from the northwest, enter the town and take the majority of it up to the main square. 5/7 Gordons would then pass through them and clear to the railway line. 1 Gordons would clear the south end of the town and the major road leading to the south west.

In a preliminary operation 152 Brigade, 2nd Seaforths in fact, made a crossing over the anti tank ditch.

The following two descriptions explain the battle:

The Invasion of Iwo Jima, February 19, 1945

Today in 1945, the US invasion of Iwo Jima began. During the next 35 days, tens of thousands of American Marines and the island’s Japanese defenders would be killed or injured. It is remembered today as one of the most costly battles of the Second World War.

Iwo Jima is an eight square mile volcanic island located approximately 650 miles south of Tokyo in the Japanese Volcano Islands Chain. Its main defining feature is Mount Suribachi, a dormant vent 546 feet high. The rest of the island is relatively flat and comprised of volcanic ash, a substance that would create challenges for the invading Marines. In 1945, there were two airfields on the islands with another one under construction.

War planners in Washington called for an invasion of the island for several reasons. First, its location allowed the Japanese radar operators stationed there to warn Tokyo of incoming American bombers. Second, the captured island could be a forward airbase for P-51 Mustangs, which could then escort B-29 Superfortresses on their missions over Japan. Finally, Iwo Jima would act as a rescue and repair station for bombers too damaged to return to their bases in the Mariana Islands.
And so at 2AM on the morning of February 19th, 1945, the thunder of 14- and 16- inch guns belonging to the battleships of the United States Navy marked the beginning of the invasion of Iwo Jima. The naval bombardment was followed by a heavy bomber raid, then more shelling from offshore. Military planners believed this “softening up” operation would be sufficient, as the island was believed to be lightly defended. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the Japanese general in charge of Iwo Jima’s defense, had come to the island in 1944 with the intention of turning it into an impregnable fortress. After evacuating the civilian population, he ordered tunnels built everywhere on the island connecting hidden artillery positions, sniper hideouts, and pillboxes. Mt. Suribachi, crisscrossed with tunnels, was home to many artillery pieces, some hidden behind steel doors. Unlike most previous invasions where the Japanese troops met their enemy on the beaches, Kuribayashi ordered his men to garrison defensive positions inland and put up no resistance to the Marines wading ashore.

Despite these measures, Kuribayashi knew that he and his men would never leave Iwo Jima. By early 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy had ceased to be an effective fighting force and the nation’s merchant fleet was in shambles. While the Air Force was still able to marshal a defense of the home islands, her planes were generally too short-ranged to defend Iwo Jima. The 80 interceptors once stationed on the island had all been destroyed either in combat or by the incessant American bombing raids of the previous year. The 21,000 Japanese defenders were alone with no chance of evacuation, resupply or victory. Their only hope was to make an invasion so costly that the Allies would be forced to reconsider their plans to invade Japan.
The first wave of the 30,000 Marines of the Fifth Amphibious Corps landed at 9AM on the morning of the invasion. The lack of resistance on the beach made many think the pre-invasion hammering of the island had killed its defenders. That changed when the lead Marines reached the first line of concealed Japanese bunkers. Machine guns opened up on them at point-blank range while the artillery hidden on Mount Suribachi rained down shells. What was thought to be a lightly-defended high spot in the ocean was quickly turning into a living hell.

Heavy naval artillery, air support, the arrival of tanks and the courage of the individual Marine allowed them to slowly advance inland. By nightfall of the first day, Suribachi was cut off from the rest of the island, at least above ground. The Marines now knew about the underground defense network and expected a bloody battle for the summit of the mount. But while small numbers of Japanese did attack the men tasked with taking the hill, resistance was light. Thus, by February 23rd, the US controlled the summit. That day, one of the most famous pictures of the 20th century was taken as a group of Marines and one Navy corpsman raised an American flag on top of Mount Suribachi. It was actually the second flag to be raised there, but that’s a story for another time.

Despite the morale boost of the flag-raising on Suribachi, the battle for Iwo Jima was far from over. The tunnel system allowed Japanese soldiers to turn up almost anywhere, even in areas that had been considered securely in American hands. The Marines quickly learned that small arms fire did little to roust their enemy from his underground positions instead, the grisly work was mostly accomplished with hand grenades and flamethrowers. Most of the Japanese attacks began taking place at night and some were only repelled after fierce hand-to-hand combat. Tales of courage and self-sacrifice during the 35-day effort are more numerous than can be recounted here as Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz said of the Americans who fought on Iwo Jima, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” One quarter of the Medals of Honor given to Marines during the Second World War were awarded for actions on Iwo Jima. Five more went to sailors, all but one of them corpsmen.

On March 26th, 1945, Iwo Jima was declared secure. Of the 21,000 Japanese defenders, approximately 20,700 of them died while only 216 were captured. The Americans fared worse in terms of casualties: nearly 28,000 men were either killed or wounded, greater than the total number of Allied casualties incurred during the D-Day landings in France in June, 1944. A number of Japanese soldiers continued to live in the tunnels, coming out at night to scavenge for food. They surrendered one by one, but the last holdout lived underground on the island until 1951.

It wasn’t long after the invasion of Iwo Jima that some in the United States began to question the strategic importance of the island. The plan to use the captured airfields as a base for fighter escorts came to almost nothing, as only ten escort missions were flown from there. The Japanese early warning radar network continued to operate even after the Iwo Jima invasion, as the island of Rota in the Mariana chain continued to function as an early warning post and was never invaded.
The island WAS very useful as an emergency airstrip for B-29s returning from missions over Japan. Between March, 1945 and the end of the war in August of that year, 2,251 Superfortresses landed on Iwo Jima. The first one, on March 5th, landed while fighting was still taking place near the airstrip. Doubtless many lives were saved because of the availability of those facilities. It is also important to remember than in early 1945, war planners were still imagining an invasion of the Japanese home islands and a war lasting until 1947. Iwo Jima would have been one of the staging areas for aircraft taking part in the invasion.

The debate over the wisdom of the costly invasion of Iwo Jima will probably continue for generations. It is worth remembering, however, that we have the luxury of history on our side, something that the men making the decisions during the war did not.

75 years ago, Darrell Cole earned his Medal of Honor with nothing more than grenades, a pistol, and ‘unfaltering courage’

On February 19th, 1945, the namesake of the future USS Cole earned the Medal of Honor — and a place in history — at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

On February 19th, 1945, the namesake of the future USS Cole earned the Medal of Honor — and a place in history — at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Marine Corps Sgt. Darrell Samuel Cole — then the leader of a machine gun section attached to Company B, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division — found himself leading his men into almost certain death on the opening day of the Battle of Iwo Jima, where they were “assailed by a tremendous volume of small-arms, mortar and artillery fire,” according to his Medal of Honor citation.

Cole had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1941. Assigned to the role of bugler, for years he lobbied his commanders for permission to perform line duties. According to the Marine Corps, Cole would first ditch his bugle for a machine gun during the beginning of the Battle of Guadalcanal in August 1942, and again during battles at Kwajalein, Saipan and Tinian, earning a Bronze Star and a reputation as “The Fighting Field Musician” throughout the Pacific campaign.

But on that February day in 1945, Cole finally proved his worth as an American hero — and made the ultimate sacrifice in the process.

After leading his machine gun section ashore, Cole “boldly led his men up the sloping beach toward Airfield No. 1 despite the blanketing curtain of flying shrapnel,” according to his Medal of Honor citation. “Personally destroying with hand grenades two hostile emplacements which menaced the progress of his unit, continued to move forward until a merciless barrage of fire emanating from three Japanese pillboxes halted the advance.”

After eliminating the nearest Japanese emplacement, Cole&aposs weapon jammed, leaving the sergeant with just a pistol a single grenade to deal with those two remaining pillboxes. And that, according to his Medal of Honor citation, that&aposs exactly what he did:

Shrewdly gauging the tactical situation and evolving a daring plan of counterattack, Sergeant Cole, armed solely with a pistol and one grenade, coolly advanced alone to the hostile pillboxes. Hurling his one grenade at the enemy in sudden, swift attack, he quickly withdrew, returned to his own lines for additional grenades and again advanced, attacked, and withdrew.

With enemy guns still active, he ran the gauntlet of slashing fire a third time to complete the total destruction of the Japanese strong point and the annihilation of the defending garrison in this final assault.

Cole was killed instantly by an enemy grenade upon returning to his squad, but his actions “had eliminated a formidable Japanese position, thereby enabling his company to storm the remaining fortifications, continue the advance, and seize the objective,” according to his citation.

“By his dauntless initiative, unfaltering courage, and indomitable determination during a critical period of action, Sergeant Cole served as an inspiration to his comrades, and his stouthearted leadership in the face of almost certain death sustained and enhanced the highest tradition of the U.S. Naval Service,” the citation continues. “He gallantly gave his life for his country.”

The U.S. military&aposs recognition of Cole&aposs sacrifice extended far beyond the Medal of Honor: In 1996, the Navy christened an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer the USS Cole in honor of his service. That vessel was eventually damaged in a suicide attack in 2000 while anchored in the Yemeni port of Aden.

Here&aposs to you, Darrell Cole: You may have been a terrific bugler, but you were an even better warrior — and you knew it, too.

Jared Kelleris the executive editor of Task & Purpose. His writing has appeared in Aeon, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the New Republic, Pacific Standard, Smithsonian, and The Washington Post, among other publications. Contact the author here.

Fighting in the Northern Half of Iwo Jima

From there, the fighting on Iwo Jima was a grotesque slog of eliminating Japanese pillboxes and underground emplacements while taking casualties at a horrific rate. Flamethrowers and explosives were employed lavishly as the only way to neutralize many of the defenses, after artillery failed to dislodge them. The Japanese were burned out, blown up, shot or bayonetted but rarely captured. In an enveloping maneuver on the second airfield, three days were required to move forward a distance of 700 yards, eliminating about one pillbox per yard of advance. The fighting was tough beyond description, but the Marines made slow and steady progress.

The reserve force 3rd Marines completed landing on 24 February. Another intense bombardment was inflicted on the Japanese after which the three Marine divisions advanced abreast pushing northward. The 4th drove on the right (east), the 3rd in the middle, and the 5th on the left (west). Marines fought in places named "Meat Grinder", "Turkey Knob", "The Gorge", and "The Amphitheater" as the miles of interlocking caves, concrete pillboxes, and fortifications were eliminated along with their defenders. The Japanese did not accommodate the Marines with suicide attacks, rather they held on to every yard with a defense in depth. Nonetheless, by 11 March the Japanese had been reduced to two large pockets and numerous isolated points of resistance.

Know about the Japanese bombing of the city of Darwin and Australia's participation in WWII

AMELIA MOSELEY: If you are a kid back in the 1940s, the world would have been a very different place. But it wasn't just the cars or the clothes. It was that the world was at war for a second time.

Australia was part of a group of countries, including the UK, France, and the US that were fighting against another group of nations led by Germany, Italy, and Japan. In some of those places, fighting and bombings were a regular threat. But in Australia, most people felt like the war was a long way away. That was until 1941.

Authorities started to worry that Darwin, then a small town, but also an important military base, might be in serious danger of being bombed by Japan. The government decided to evacuate more than 1,000 women and children on ships. Wendy was five years old at the time. She was shipped to Perth with no idea when she'd be able to return.

WENDY: We set off down the dirt track to go to the wharf. My father was standing on the back steps, and we turned a corner and we lost sight of him. And my mother was so angry and crying. And we managed to board the ship just before they pulled up the gangplank, and before they pulled up the anchor.

MOSELEY: On the 19th of February, 1942, war came to Australia's shores. Japan wanted to destroy our country's northern defenses, so it could invade Timor and in the process send Australia a warning. Just before 10 a.m., Japanese forces launched 188 fighter planes from ships in the Timor Sea and headed for Darwin.

They bombed military bases, the town, and the harbor, sinking several ships, including a US destroyer. A second attack followed soon after. The two air raids killed at least 235 people and wounded about 400 more.

It was and still is the biggest attack on Australia in its history, but it wasn't the only one. In total there were more than 90 air attacks on the Northern Territory.

WENDY: This is a photograph taken about six months after we came back from being evacuated.

MOSELEY: Evacuees like Wendy were only allowed back into Darwin in 1945, when the war finally ended. By then, she hadn't seen her dad for about four years. Her family house and a lot of the town she knew had disappeared. But she said it was good to finally be home safe.

WENDY: There was a sense of relief that everything was peaceful, and their families were together again. It was a wonderful sense.

MOSELEY: Today the city has grown and changed a lot. But locals haven't forgotten the day Darwin was bombed.

STUDENT 1: This is Darwin Harbor. When it was bombed in 1942.

MOSELEY: In the lead up to the 75th anniversary, some kids have been learning about it and creating artwork.

STUDENT 2: We are recreating a famous painting of the bombing of the harbor of Darwin. And at the moment we're just doing the ocean and the-- We had been learning a lot about it, and we would like to know because it's in our Darwin's history.

MOSELEY: Veterans and locals say it was a sad and important moment in Australia's history that should always be remembered.

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