Compare and Contrast Iwo Jima and Okinawa
By Max Mito
Iwo Jima and Okinawa were both glorious yet horrendous battles. Each had its own individual significance whether it was the tactics used or the significance it carried to end World War II. While comparing and contrasting Iwo Jima and Okinawa it became evident that Iwo Jima was, out of the two, more vital towards the surrender of Imperial Japan.
Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific Theater during World War II. It was the first battle ever to be fought on Japanese soil, and the first time Japan ever lost to a foreign power on their soil. Not only that however, but it would also be the gateway to the Japanese mainland. This battle was important strategically for various reasons. This battle was long predicted even before the battle. It was planned as early as July 14, 1944 (Iwo Jima, pg. 20). For the Japanese, the reason why they were so determined to keep hold of it was because; Iwo Jima could spot their bombers heading towards Tokyo, and so could warn the Imperial Headquarters in Japan or send fighters to destroy them and thus protect the emperor and the mainland. The reason why America was so determined to take control was so that they could use the two airfields to bomb Japan or use it as an emergency airfield. Both sides were largely aware of its significance. As Historylearningsite once stated, “Despite its size, Iwo Jima was considered to have great tactical importance. There were two airfields on the island – under Japan’s control; they could be used by Japanese fighter planes to attack American bombers on their flights to Japan. Under American control, the airfields could be used as emergency landing bases for damaged airplanes in the bombing raids. They could also be used for American fighter planes to escort the bombers, as they needed smaller runways for take-off” (The Battle of Iwo Jima, 2000). On February 19th 1945 three American Marin divisions landed onto the beach of Iwo Jima. The bombardment of Iwo Jima that was done before the initial invasion did little to destroy the fortifications since most were underground. The bombardment even helped the Japanese army to hold off the Americans. On the first day alone the Americans took over 2,400 casualties. By Day 2 they attempted to take a well-fortified hill named Suribachi. On February 23rd it was finally taken. Towards the hilltop on Suribachi a famous picture was taken that would later influence peoples hearts. After a month of hard fighting and stubborn resistance done by the Japanese America finally managed to secure the island on March 26th. However the Americans did not take it without a price. 6,891 Marines were killed and 18070 wounded. On the Japanese side, out of the 22,000 soldiers only 216 were taken prisoner. This was the first time American forces breached Japanese inner perimeter.
The Allies planned to take an island only 360 miles from the Japanese mainland. This island was Okinawa. The Japanese were determined to protect this area and had committed 120, 000 troops to the islands defense. Ever since 1944 the troops on Okinawa created many underground fortifications. The Japanese strategy was to force the Americans to engage in hand-to-hand combat. On April 1st 1945 the U.S. Marines started their invasion onto Okinawa. On the 1st hour alone the US Marines managed to land 16,000 troops and by nightfall 60,000. The US marines managed to capture the northern half of Okinawa fairly quickly. However, the capture of the southern part of the Island proved to be a lot more strenuous. The most fortified was a place named Sugar Loaf. This took a lot of recourses to try subduing the defenders in their maze of fortifications. They only managed to capture it when the Japanese retreated. However it did have a huge price. 2600 people killed or wounded. By the next few month Okinawa was totally occupied. The end count for the casualties for the Americans was over 57,000 casualties. For the Japanese there was an estimated 120,000 people dead. About 7000 Japanese surrendered. Not only that however but around 150,000 civilians died during the air and naval bombardment. It was the most costly of all American invasions.
I believe that out of the two Iwo Jima was more important towards the surrender of Japan for a couple of reasons. The first was, it was the first time the American forces ever manage to land on native Japanese soil. This would be a huge blow to Japan’s morale. It also put Japan into a situation where they could no longer safely protect their emperor who was also their god. The second and last reason why this was the more important battle was because, of the fierce fighting on Iwo Jima it later influenced the decision to use the Atomic bombs onto Nagasaki and Hiroshima.(historylearningsite, The Battle of Iwo Jima, 2000)
The battle of Iwo Jima. (2000). Historylearningsite. Retrieved from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/battle_of_iwo_jima.htm
The battle of Okinawa. (2000). Historylearningsite. Retrieved from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/battle_of_okinawa.htm
Newcomb, R. F. (1965). Iwo Jima. United States: Bantam Books.
Okinawa. (2010, March 29). Olive-drab. Retrieved from http://www.olive-drab.com/od_history_ww2_ops_battles_1945okinawa.php