"Glory and misery at Iwo Jima" by Friedrich vH.uH. The little volcanic island of Iwo Jima is part of Japanese territory, a bit far from the rest of it, forming a triangle with Tokio and Okinawa. Its strategic position, 650 straight kilometres from Tokio, made it extremely important for both sides, the Japanese and the Americans, in the year of 1944, when the war in the Pacific Ocean was starting its end and reaching a bloody climax. Iwo Jima is a very small island, made of volcanic rock and it only has 24 square kilometres; 8 kilometres long and 3 kilometres wide. The island is dominated by the tall and steep mount Suribachi, which was an ideal observation and defensive position. In December 1944 the conquest of the Philippines Isles by general MacArthur's forces was already a fact and the war was being taken to the very Japanese soil, making the Japanese react in a furious way. At this time, Iwo Jima had acquired a tremendous strategic importance; from there, the gigantic American bombers B-29 could be intercepted by enemy observers or enemy fighter planes so the Japanese could prevent the destruction of their country from the air. By the date of the American invasion of Iwo Jima, an airfield was partially finished; it had two fully-operational airstrips and a third one was under construction, also, Japanese planes were already operating there. Since February of the following year, the island had been object of 69 air raids by 1.269 planes and had suffered heavy naval bombing in 8 occasions; in this way, the Americans tried in vain to stop the construction of defences and to destroy the air field. The island was a fortress by itself; its flat black-sand beaches had no hiding places for the attackers, the thick vegetation was another formidable obstacle, the hidden and tall rock positions at mount Suribachi were natural bunkers and finally, there were the artificial defences. The Japanese had planned to build 28 kilometres of tunnels dug in the very volcanic rocks of the island, with underground liaisons, traps, strong points, command centres and supply deposits. Even if hard work took place during many months, for the time of the invasion only 18 kilometres out of the original 28 had been successfully finished because time and resources were not enough and there had been several problems during the excavation, mainly natural gas gaps. Despite of that, the island was a true mortal trap, because with those defensive positions, artificial and natural, the attackers would be on open field, at the sight of many fire-spots perfectly camouflaged that had to be neutralised gradually. These were the tactics which formed the Japanese strategy for the moment: inflict an enormous amount of casualties to the Americans, so the sensitive people back home will sue for peace. The days 16th and 17th of December 1944, the Americans launched a huge combined operation. A large combat group under admiral Andrew Mitscher threw 30 aircraft carriers and 1.200 aeroplanes against the Tokio area to prevent the enemy from reinforcing the garrisons of Bonin and Vulcano isles. A fierce Japanese counterattack came but was a total failure: 499 irreplaceable aeroplanes —including 177 on the ground— were lost and only 49 enemy aircraft were destroyed. Admiral Andrew Mitscher On February 13th 1945, some 160 American warships sailed from Saipan. The Japanese were put under alert. Admiral Raymond Spruance’s V Fleet brought hell on Earth when its ships bombarded Iwo Jima with every gun —big and small— they had; thousands and thousands of shells rained over Iwo Jima for 15 entire days. It was believed that nothing could survive that bombardment. Admiral Raymond Spruance Finally, on February 19th 1945 D-day came and the combined force of rear admiral Kelly Turner boarded the landing crafts and headed towards Iwo Jima’s beaches. The attacking force was organised in the 3rd, 4th and 5th marine divisions under USMC lieutenant general Holland M. Smith. The H-hour came at 09.00 hours that day and 15 minutes later, the Japanese opened fire. Japanese hidden artillery destroyed many landing crafts before they reached the beach and even if the marines had the support of 1.500 aeroplanes and the entire fleet it turned very hard for them to advance; the Japanese positions were sighted when it was too late, by the flash of their guns. The second and third attack waves were blockaded and had to stay, crowded, at the beaches. The first wave could not go forward because of the heavy fire, vegetation, mine-fields, obstacles, bamboo-traps, etcetera. The 5th marine division had to capture and sweep mount Suribachi in the right flank of the island, while the 4th marine division took the air field in the very centre of the island, 800 metres inland. Rear admiral Richmond K. Turner Lieutenant general Holland M. Smith Admiral Raymond Spruance and lieutenant general Holland M. Smith The defenders, totalling 21.000 were under general Tadamichi Kuribayashi, an expert Japanese soldier, faithful to his duty and emperor. The Japanese had strong defensive positions and supplies for two and a half months, 120 guns of more than 75mm and 23 tanks —although these had very thin armour and a small gun. Kuribayashi’s forces were organised as follows: 109th Infantry division. 2nd Mixed division. 145th Infantry regiment. 17th Mixed regiment. 26th Armoured regiment. 1st and 2nd independent machine-gunner battalions. 7.500 extra naval fusiliers. General Tadamishi Kuribayashi D-day. H-hour.