Iwo Jima is an island in the nation of Japan which is probably most famous for the role it played in the Battle of Iwo Jima, a famous event of the Second World War. This battle was notable because it marked the first assault on the home islands of Japan, and it cost a large number of lives. The Battle of Iwo Jima also produced one of the most iconic images ever: a photograph of six men raising a flag which won the Pulitzer Prize and has since been widely reproduced all over the world.
This island lies in the Western Pacific. For the Japanese, Iwo Jima was critical to military strategy, because it could be used to sound early warnings about Allied bombing raids and other approaches to Japan. The Allies wanted to gain control of the island so that they could regain the element of surprise, and use the island as a base for the purpose of launching aerial assaults. After a great deal of planning, an ambitious bombing raid was carried out, followed by an amphibious assault in February of 1945.
The Japanese forces defended Iwo Jima ferociously, recognizing the Allied attack as a major incursion and affront, since it was the first time Allied ground forces had the audacity to land in Japan itself. All told, around 20,000 Japanese soldiers died, and almost 7,000 Allied troops lost their lives on Iwo Jima, with another 18,000 injured. The high Japanese casualty rate on Iwo Jima has been attributed to the code of honor many soldiers followed, which encouraged them to evade capture at all costs, including suicide. Propaganda campaigns had also instilled an intense fear of American forces among the Japanese troops.
From the start, Iwo Jima's strategic role was questioned. Some people felt that the cost in lives had been too high, and that the island was captured more as a public relations exercise than a genuine military objective. That said, Americans held the island as a base until 1968, when it was finally returned to Japan, and American forces argued that the base proved to be extremely useful in the final months of the Second World War.
The famous photograph of the Marines and Navy corpsman raising the flag on Iwo Jima inspired the creation of a memorial which sits in Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial stands for all Marines, not just those killed on the bloody battle for Iwo Jima, and it replicates the circumstances of the photograph. The photograph and statue have a slightly chilling note: of the six people captured in the iconic image, only three survived the war.