It happened 74 years ago, and a photograph of an astonishing moment from the event has become an iconic part of American History.
In memory of the Battle of Iwo Jima and the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi, the U.S. Marine Corps shared a video tribute on Twitter.
The short clip tells the powerful story about what happened at the moment the flag went up.
74 years ago today, Marines on Iwo Jima raised the flag atop Mount Suribachi.
Semper Fidelis. pic.twitter.com/UsQ2z344Xp
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) February 23, 2019
“There was a loud roar that went up on Iwo Jima from every Marine there,” the unidentified narrator said.
“Some of them just laid their rifles down, stood up, and waved their hands. It was a joyous moment, and it was a great morale raiser.”
Knowing the story behind that moment explains the reaction.
Just days before, on Feb. 19, 1944, Marines stormed the island. But the island was heavily fortified and the Marines suffered heavy losses, the American Military Times wrote.
Undaunted, the Marines took the highest peak on the island, Mount Suribachi. It would provide them with a good “strategic overlook position.”
In the Battle for Iwo Jima, approximately 7,000 brave Marines were killed; 20,000 more were wounded.
This made the Battle for Iwo Jima one of the most deadly in all of World War II. But that isn’t all. It is also one of the most deadly in the history of the U.S. Marines.
It was called Operation Detachment.
“American victory was never in doubt; the US had an overwhelming numerical advantage and complete aerial superiority and had cut off the island, preventing retreat or the arrival of reinforcements,” Business Insider wrote.
The Japanese, however, were determined to make that victory costly.
“But the Japanese had prepared for a massive battle on the island. They had evacuated all civilians and burned all the vegetation and brush to eliminate places where the Americans could conceal themselves,” Business Insider wrote.
“Most important, the Japanese had built a massive network of tunnels and bunkers that enabled them to access any part of the island and wait out long bombardment.”
Ultimately, the American Military News wrote, the taking of Iwo Jima was “vital” to the American war effort:
“The island became a landing site for B-29 bombers, and is attributed to saving the lives of 24,000 airmen. It also paved the way for the final and largest Pacific region battle, the invasion of Okinawa.”
Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was there covering the battle. He captured the raising of the flag on film on Feb. 23, 1945.
The memorial video shared by the U.S. Marines clearly highlights why the Marines would be filled with such pride at the raising of the American flag that day. They had paid dearly to get to that moment, and would pay more dearly still in the fighting ahead — on Iwo Jima and elsewhere.
But it was a symbol that final victory was assured.
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