1 After the Battle of Leyte in the Philippines, the Japanese knew the Allies were coming ever closer to their mainland. They also realized that their military was becoming seriously depleted. Their navy had lost so many ships that they were no longer a major factor in battles. They had lost most of their aircraft. It would take years to build enough planes to bring them back up to full strength. The replacement planes being built did not have the ability to fly the long distances they would need to in order to protect the home islands.
2 Japan had to come up with a plan to stop the advance of the Allied forces. They were certain that the Allies would try to reach Japan through Okinawa and Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima was a fairly small island. It was less than five miles from north to south. It was two and a half miles at its widest point and one half mile at its narrowest. The Japanese decided to make it as secure as possible before the expected attack from the Allies.
3 To give themselves time to fortify Iwo Jima, the Japanese called for a number of "kamikaze" attacks on Allied ships in the area. Kamikazes were volunteer suicide bombers. These pilots flew their planes over the carriers in the Pacific shipping lanes. They would crash their planes into the ships. It was certain death for the pilot. These planes were capable of doing great damage to the ships they hit. The Japanese plan was to delay the Allied ships long enough for them to complete the defense of Iwo Jima.
4 In late July of 1944, all civilians had been removed from the island. Japanese troops were deployed to the island just a few thousand at a time. Japanese engineers were put to work. Military leaders decided that the best way to defend the island was from underground. The engineers planned a series of tunnels and underground bunkers from which the Japanese would work. They had to make sure there was proper ventilation for the men. They also had to make sure the structures would be strong enough to withstand the bombings they knew the Allies were capable of. Also in the plan was a tunnel system that would connect the northern base of operations to the southern beach fortifications. The length of the entire tunnel system was at least seventeen miles.
5 Iwo Jima was a volcanic island formed by the lava of an erupting volcano. The black ash that covered the island proved to be a great asset to the Japanese. When mixed with cement, it formed a concrete they used to build walls up to four feet thick. These walls could withstand bombs and offer protection to the Japanese forces. The volcanic stone that formed the island was soft enough that it could be cut using hand tools. The Japanese were able to fashion small caves used to protect two or three soldiers comfortably. They were also able to cut large chambers far underground that could hold 300 to 400 men. Each chamber was well ventilated because of the sulfur in the volcanic rock. They installed many entrance and exit tunnels so that there would be no chance that the enemy could trap them in one spot.
6 The Allies planned to capture Iwo Jima in order to stop the bombing of their ships and to cut off the airfields being used by the Japanese. On February 16, 1945, the Allies began three days of bombing by air and sea. On February 19, 30,000 Marines attacked the beach of Iwo Jima. They were part of a large amphibious corps. These Marines were trained to fight both on the sea and the land. They were prepared for anything. The Japanese had set up artillery on Mount Suribachi at the south end of Iwo Jima. The Marines quickly surrounded Mount Suribachi. That allowed 40,000 more Marines to also invade the island. Over the next month, the Marines were able, through fierce fighting, to gain control of Iwo Jima. The Allies suffered 26,000 casualties on Iwo Jima. Almost 7,000 of those were killed. That sounds like a lot, and it is. But the Japanese losses were even worse. In all, the Japanese had 22,000 soldiers on the island of Iwo Jima. There were 200 of these soldiers captured and made prisoners of war. The other 21,800 were killed.
7 A monument to the heroism of the Marines on Iwo Jima can be seen today in Washington, D.C. This statue depicts the efforts of Marines to raise the American flag on Mount Suribachi.
What would be another name for a kamikaze?
Name two things that made Iwo Jima a perfect place to build the defenses underground.
What did the Japanese fear would happen if they could not hold on to Iwo Jima?
They would have to fight some place else.
The Allies would get closer to their homeland.
The war would last ten more years.
The Japanese would lose the volcanic rock.
What did the Japanese use to connect their lines of defense?