The Battle of Iwo Jima (February 19 — March 26, 1945), or Operation Detachment, was a battle in which the United States fought for and captured Iwo Jima from Japan. The U.S. invasion was charged with the mission of capturing the two airfields on Iwo Jima. The battle produced some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific Campaign of World War II.
The Japanese positions on the island were heavily fortified, with vast bunkers, hidden artillery, and 18 km (11 mi) of underground tunnels. The Americans were covered by extensive naval and air support, capable of putting an enormous amount of firepower onto the Japanese positions. The battle was the first American attack on the Japanese Home Islands, and the Imperial soldiers defended their positions tenaciously. Of the more than 18,000 Japanese soldiers present at the beginning of the battle, only 216 were taken prisoner. The rest were killed or were missing and assumed dead. Despite heavy fighting and casualties on both sides, Japanese defeat was assured from the start. The Americans possessed an overwhelming superiority in arms and numbers—this, coupled with the impossibility of Japanese retreat or reinforcement, ensured that there was no plausible scenario in which the United States could have lost the battle.
The battle was immortalized by Joe Rosenthal’s photograph of the raising of the U.S. flag on top of the 166 m (545 ft) Mount Suribachi by five Marines and one Navy Corpsman. The photograph records the second flag-raising on the mountain, which took place on the fifth day of the 35-day battle. The picture became the iconic image of the battle and has been heavily reproduced.
Iwo Jima was also the only U.S. Marine battle where the American casualties exceeded the Japanese, although Japanese combat deaths numbered three times that of Americans.