The assault on Iwo Jima came as a smashing climax to the 16-month drive that carried the amphibious forces of the United States across the Central Pacific to within 660 miles of Tokyo. Striking first at Tarawa in November 1943, American forces had swept rapidly westward, seizing only those islands essential for support of future operations. Many powerful enemy strongholds were bypassed and neutralized. By the fall of 1944 the small but heavily fortified island of Iwo Jima, lying midway between the Marianas and the heart of the Japanese Empire, had assumed such strategic importance that its rapid seizure became imperative. Neutralization would not suffice; Iwo must become an operational United States base.

At Iwo Jima the amphibious doctrines, techniques, weapons, and equipment which had proven so effective during the three previous years of World War II received the supreme test. On that island more than 20,000 well-disposed and deeply entrenched Japanese troops conducted an intelligent and dogged defense. There, more than anywhere else in the Central Pacific, terrain and enemy defense preparations combined to limit the effectiveness of American supporting arms, placing a premium on the skill and aggressive fighting spirit of the individual Marine.

There can be no more fitting tribute than the well-known words of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, "Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island uncommon valor was a common virtue."

Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.
General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commandant of the Marine Corps



Iwo Jima is the thirteenth in a series of historical monographs prepared by the Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps, to present a factual account of Marine operations during World War II. Upon completion of this series, the individual monographs will be integrated into a final, definitive operational history of World War II.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the many individuals who read and commented on the preliminary drafts of this monograph, and to the historical offices of the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force for the helpful services rendered.

Mr. John M. Wearmouth prepared the appendices and made an outstanding contribution to this study by his painstaking research and editorial work. Captain Lawrence C. Switzer, a participant in the operation, wrote the preliminary drafts of Chapters III, IV, and V. Maps and sketches were prepared by the Reproduction Section, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia. All photographs are official Marine Corps unless otherwise noted.

T.A. Wornham
Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps
Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3


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Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation