EDITOR’S NOTE — On Feb. 23, 1945, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal took a photograph that would become one of the most recognizable and reproduced images in history. It showed five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising an American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.
Seventy years after its original publication, the AP is making Rosenthal’s photo and the story about the assault on Mount Suribachi available.
GUAM (AP) — Hard-fighting United States marines, who have paid the Pacific’s highest price for 58 hours of battle with 5,372 casualties at Iwo, wrested 546-foot Mt. Suribachi on the south tip of the island from the Japanese today.
The United States Flag was raised on the crater’s rim at 10:35 a.m. by the 28th Regiment, signaling the end of one phase of the five-day-old struggle.
From Suribachi, whose slopes had been blasted by battleships and dive-bombed by carrier planes, the Japs (Editor’s note: a disparaging word used to describe the Japanese that was in common use at the time) had raked marine positions throughout the southern sector with deadly mortar and artillery fire.
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz announced the victory in a brief communique soon after one which had reported only minor advances through Thursday against fierce opposition.
The earlier communique, covering marine casualties only through 6 p.m. Wednesday, disclosed that 644 marines had been killed, 4,168 wounded and 560 were missing. Since then severe battles have raged.
In the same 58-hour period, a total of 1,222 enemy dead were counted.
No invasion of the Pacific war for a comparative period has cost so many American casualties. At Tarawa, previously considered the bloodiest fight of the war, marine casualties for its entire 72 hours slightly exceeded 3,000.
The three marine divisions, the 3rd, 4th and 5th, inched forward slightly on the north toward the enemy fighter base in the center of the island and constructed their lines around Mt. Suribachi as a preliminary to its capture. Presumably hard fighting will still be necessary to clean all the Japs from its caves.
The Japs launched two powerful counterattacks on the flanks of the forces attacking the airfield. Significantly, Nimitz did not specifically claim either had been completely blunted.
Nimitz said that artillery and the supporting guns of U.S. 5th Fleet warships “appeared to have repulsed the assault on the left.”
He added, however:
“No reporters were available on the action on the right.”
Heavy rains hampered the fighting.
In a broadcast, Larry Tighe, Blue Network correspondent, said high winds have whipped waves “to heights of six feet” against the shore and “endanger any attempts to keep the supply lines flowing smoothly into the beaches.” Despite this supplies were moving ashore much faster than in the first two days when the invasion was perilously close to being repulsed.
Jap planes, earlier acknowledged to have inflicted some damage on units of the 5th Fleet, continued their attacks Thursday.
The raids were unsuccessful, the Navy said.
Fighters and anti-aircraft guns shot down six enemy planes.
Warships and carrier planes, despite bad weather, kept adding to the more than 20,000 tons of explosives which have been pumped into Iwo’s enemy garrison — one ton for each Nipponese who was on the island’s eight square miles when the invasion was opened Monday.
Vice-Adm. John Hoover, commander of forward areas, disclosed today that at one time on D-Day the beach head actually appeared “doomed.”
Other observers reported only a few trucks got ashore the first two days, during which the landing parties were almost without supplies.
“There was little change in the position of the front lines,” Nimitz had reported in a Thursday communique which covered action up to Thursday noon.
“Some damage to fleet units” was announced by Nimitz in reporting the first successful attack by the Jap air force on American warships supporting the invasion.
Although Iwo Jima is only 750 miles from Tokyo, and about 100 south of the enemy’s bases on Chichi and Haha islands in the Bonins, the Japs had been unable until at sunset Wednesday to penetrate the air screen thrown about the fleet as it pounded Iwo’s defenses. The enemy attack doubtless was aided by the heavy rains drenching Iwo and hampering the ground invasion.
Landing Wednesday of the reinforcing 3rd Marine Division, the mounting casualties, bitter resistance and almost negligible gains all indicated the marines were up against their toughest assignment of the Pacific war. An American invasion force of perhaps 40,000 is pitted against an original enemy garrison of probably 20,000. In addition to outnumbering the enemy, the devildogs had the support of American warships and American carrier and land-based planes commanded the air.
With the capture of Mt. Suribachi heavy fighting on Iwo will be concentrated in the northern section where the marines are driving for the central airfield.
Several heavy enemy counterattacks in the northern sector were beaten off Wednesday night, Nimitz reported, and then on Thursday the marines launched a northward attack of their own under heavy enemy fire.
By noon Thursday, fighting in a hard rain, this force was advancing slowly.
In the southern sector, the leathernecks launched a coordinated attack up the steep slopes of Suribachi to achieve its capture. They fought “under the most difficult combat conditions,” said the communique. Every few feet there was an enemy pillbox. Japs resisted from every cave and crevice in the 546-foot high peak.
Suribachi was isolated early in the invasion from the Japanese farther north when a marine column drove across the southern edge of Iwo.
American warships, which plastered Iwo for several days in a heavy preinvasion bombardment, continued to shell the northern area of the island, Nimitz reported.
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