70 years ago today, U.S. flags rose on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima


February 23, 1945. It’s a date that will live in famous heroics, war brutality, photography, and bronze.

On the morning of February 23, U.S. troops raised the U.S. flag on a hill known as Mt. Suribachi, on the island of Iwo Jima — a visual signal to U.S. troops that the high ground had been taken, and the battle turned for the U.S.

First flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on February 23, 1945.  Photograph for Leatherneck Magazine by Sgt. Lou Lowery.

First flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on February 23, 1945. Photograph for Leatherneck Magazine by Sgt. Lou Lowery.

Later in the day, an officer ordered a larger flag to be posted, to be more visible. AP photographer Joe Rosenthal caught that raising on film.

Is this the most iconic photo ever?  Wikimedia caption: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, Joe Rosenthal's historic photo depicts five United States Marines and one sailor raising an American flag over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The image above is an Associated Press photograph that won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. It was taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945.

Is this the most iconic photo ever? Wikimedia caption: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, Joe Rosenthal’s historic photo depicts five United States Marines and one sailor raising an American flag over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The image above is an Associated Press photograph that won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. It was taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945.

February 23 does not appear in the list of dates by law recommended for Americans to fly the U.S. flag.  You may want to fly yours today, anyway.

More:

Iwo Jima Memorial, near Washington, D.C.

Iwo Jima Memorial, near Washington, D.C.

Mt. Suribachi's prominence is clear in this photo of the island of Iwo To, as it is known in Japan.

Mt. Suribachi’s prominence is clear in this photo of the island of Iwo To, as it is known in Japan. Suribachi is a 546-foot (166 m) dormant volcanic cone, on the southern tip of the island. Wikipedia image

12 Responses to 70 years ago today, U.S. flags rose on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima

  1. JamesK says:

    To quote: I have wondered why there was no attempt to detonate a bomb (or several) in a location that was more remote, in order to flex some muscle and shock the Japanese High Command. I am sure smarter men than me considered it and ruled it out with good reason. I know the plan to starve the Japanese with a massive Allied naval blockade would have proven fruitless.

    I think part of it was the fact that we only had two. I also think part of it was to keep the Soviets out of it.

    And probably there was a little bit of Sherman’s “I would make this war as severe as possible, and show no symptoms of tiring till the South begs for mercy.”

    Like

  2. Jim says:

    What a great discussion, Ed. Some random remarks…

    I have been on both sides of the question. I have come down to pretty much the same conclusion as you. I do agree with bomb critics who believe the two explosions had more to do with sending a message to Uncle Joe than to the Japanese. But it’s vital to note that all attempts by more rational Japanese leaders to sue for peace were quashed by the military hardliners. They surely would have fought on.

    What I don’t know for sure is if they would have withdrawn all their troops from China, the East Indies and the rice bowl in order to stiffen home turf resistance. If not — and U.S. and British submarines were certainly making troop transports much less practicable by 1945 — then you can add the continued slaughter in China to the devastation of a U.S. invasion.

    I have wondered why there was no attempt to detonate a bomb (or several) in a location that was more remote, in order to flex some muscle and shock the Japanese High Command. I am sure smarter men than me considered it and ruled it out with good reason. I know the plan to starve the Japanese with a massive Allied naval blockade would have proven fruitless.

    Bomb advocates make a fair point, too, when they remind us of the numerical devastation of firebombing. Tokyo and Dresden should haunt us at least as much as Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    And touching on the Soviets, I think it wouldn’t have been too long before they claimed Hokkaido. They’d already forced the Japanese out of the Kurile Islands and lower Sakhalin in the last week of the war. I wonder if we might not have had a North Japan and South Japan? This proved disastrous for Vietnam and in Korea, we are still trying to make sense of it.

    As I said…random thoughts. Good people disagree. I lean more your way though. I’d love to be dissuaded.

    Peace,

    Jim

    Like

  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Maybe more information we should consider:

    Like

  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Despite the common criticism of Zinn, yes he’s much more thoughtful, and much more prone to accuracy than IHR.

    Like

  5. Debra says:

    I totally agree that the point of remembering this stuff is to leave with the wisdom of never doing it again. I am sorry for your losses.

    I can see why you didn’t like that source (thanks for the heads up) but facts are facts. They are the same ones Zinn uses in his argument that comes to a similar conclusion. Dropping those bombs did not save lives (can a phrase get more Orwellian?) but actually may have made things worse. It was a convenient lie to make it happen and one used to cover up what was a terrible war crime.

    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Zinn/Bombs_August.html

    Like

  6. Ed Darrell says:

    IHR dogs a lot of what I do, and what others do.

    You’re familiar with their research history? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_for_Historical_Review

    I’m with Mel Mermelstein on this one.

    One should also remember that the battle for Okinawa came after Iwo Jima. Those two battles convinced President Harry Truman to look for something other than a ground invasion of the main Japanese islands, to end the war.

    Had the Japanese wished to surrender, there was ample opportunity to do so. They did not. They fought on, on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, to the last grenade-laden man, killing as many Allied troops as possible, granting not an inch of territory nor mercy.

    Truman had served in World War I, in the trenches in Belgium. He knew death in war, and he saw the war as the grunt GIs saw it. When the War Department suggested a ground invasion of Japan would cost a million casualties, Truman was shocked to learn from lower-ranking War Department officials that was the low estimate of US troop casualties. If the numbers from Okinawa and Iwo Jima held up, Japanese military deaths would be several multiples of that; some estimates said 5 million civilians would die.

    I’ve seen the stories that the cable from Japan’s War Council was mistranslated; but I’ve also seen alternative translations. Japan was not ready to surrender even after Hiroshima, officially, by the War Council.

    Robert McNamara may have been right. Had the U.S. lost the war, those attacks would have been considered war crimes.

    War is hell.

    The student activity kit at the Truman Library puts it this way:

    With the advent of the nuclear age, new dilemmas in the art of warfare arose. The war in Europe had concluded in May. The Pacific war would receive full attention from the United States War Department. As late as May 1945, the U.S. was engaged in heavy fighting with the Japanese at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In these most bloody conflicts, the United States had sustained more than 75,000 casualties. These victories insured the United States was within air striking distance of the Japanese mainland. The bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese to initiate United States entrance into the war, just four years before, was still fresh on the minds of many Americans. A feeling of vindication and a desire to end the war strengthened the resolve of the United States to quickly and decisively conclude it. President Harry Truman had many alternatives at his disposal for ending the war: invade the Japanese mainland, hold a demonstration of the destructive power of the atomic bomb for Japanese dignitaries, drop an atomic bomb on selected industrial Japanese cities, bomb and blockade the islands, wait for Soviet entry into the war on August 15, or mediate a compromised peace. Operation Olympia, a full scale landing of United States armed forces, was already planned for Kyushu on November 1, 1945 and a bomb and blockade plan had already been instituted over the Japanese mainland for several months.

    The Japanese resolve to fight had been seriously hampered in the preceding months. Their losses at Iwo Jima and Okinawa had been staggering. Their navy had ceased to exist as an effective fighting force and the air corps had been decimated. American B-29’s made bombing runs over military targets on the Japanese mainland an integral part of their air campaign. Japan’s lack of air power hindered their ability to fight. The imprecision of bombing and the use of devastating city bombing in Europe eventually swayed United States Pacific theater military leaders to authorize bombing of Japanese mainland cities. Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe all were decimated by incendiary and other bombs. In all, hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed in these air strikes meant to deter the resolve of the Japanese people. Yet, Japanese resolve stayed strong and the idea of a bloody “house to house” invasion of the Japanese mainland would produce thousands more American and Allied casualties. The Allies in late July 1945 declared at Potsdam that the Japanese must unconditionally surrender.

    After Japanese leaders flatly rejected the Potsdam Declaration, President Truman authorized use of the atomic bomb anytime after August 3, 1945. On the clear morning of August 6, the first atomic bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. Leveling over 60 percent of the city, 70,000 residents died instantaneously in a searing flash of heat. Three days later, on August 9, a second bomb, Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki. Over 20,000 people died instantly. In the successive weeks, thousands more Japanese died from the after effects of the radiation exposure of the blast.

    [Yes, it’s a bit pedestrian and simplistic, but much more accurate than IHR on anything.]

    It took the U.S. more than 40 years to come to grips with the human toll of atomic weapons — and I think most people still don’t understand it.

    But I think of my family members in the Pacific, and those from the European Theater, headed to the Pacific, who to their dying breaths swore their love for Harry Truman, as my Uncle Leo put it, for “saving my life with that damned bomb.”

    I spent a decade of my life in the thankless task of trying to get compensation for the U.S. soldiers, miners, sheepherders and housewives maimed and killed by fallout from our atomic testing. I’ve seen up close the damage that atomic bombs do long after the destruction of war, and it’s ugly.

    I think it’s important we note these dates, and remember the people who lived them, and died then and later, in order try to find a way never to do it again.

    Like

  7. Debra says:

    Here’s a good summary of the facts that overturn to myth that the bomb atrocities stopped the war.
    http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v16/v16n3p-4_Weber.html

    Like

  8. Debra says:

    There is a lot of documentation that does indicate Japan was ready to stop as early as September 1944. General Arnold said in his memoir: “It always appeared to us, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse.” From FOIA requests we know the USA had intercepted messages from Japan to Russia that they were seeking to end the war. We also know that on January 20, 1945 General McArthur gave Truman a memo that the Japanese were offering surrender terms virtually identical to the ones ultimately accepted by the Americans. Why this isn’t common knowledge or taught in American history classes?

    Like

  9. Ed Darrell says:

    Johnny, serious question?

    Search for “Mt. Suribachi.” Japan renamed the island, and with the many Iwo Jima memorials, Google Earth may have difficulty figuring out what you want.

    My search for “Mt. Suribachi” said it’s in Ogasawara, Japan. But it takes you to the island, and the volcanic cone in question.

    Like

  10. Ed Darrell says:

    1. Who is celebrating?

    2. If Japan had been ready to surrender, why didn’t they? Why didn’t they surrender after the ultimatum from Yalta? Why not after Hiroshima? I think if one looks at the conditions Japan proposed, one might conclude they did not propose simply a position in the post-war era, but also proposed to keep territories and resources conquered in war. Not conditions acceptable for a lasting peace.

    Like

  11. JohnnyBravo says:

    So how come we can’t pinpoint the location on google earth

    Like

  12. Debra says:

    44,844 casualties for what? An obscure place that was really only going to be used for staging the atomic bomb attacks. The Americans knew the Japanese were ready to stop fighting — they only wanted to assert a dominant position in the post war era. That is really kind of obscene isn’t it? Not something I would celebrate.

    Like

Please play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes. While your e-mail will not show with comments, note that it is our policy not to allow false e-mail addresses. Comments with non-working e-mail addresses may be deleted.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: