- Five-week battle for Japanese island saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the entire Pacific campaign
- Of 21,000 Japanese defenders, only 216 were captured – some of whom were knocked unconscious first
- 26,000 Americans were hurt or killed, the only Pacific battle where the US total was higher than the Japanese
- Image have been rendered in color by Nicholas Rodriguez who said he wanted to give them new relevance
Flames coating a Japanese gun emplacement, shells exploding on a desolate landscape, and bodies strewn across the sand – these were the haunting sights witnessed by US Marines during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The fight was one of the bloodiest of the Pacific campaign with more than 26,000 American personnel wounded or killed – the only battle where the US total was higher than the Japanese.
Now images of the fighting have been rendered in color by Nicholas Rodriguez who wanted to give people a better idea of the sights those fighting in the battle were confronted with.
‘For lack of a better word, these pictures show reality,’ he said. ‘The reason I put so much emphasis on accuracy in these photos because it’s not about making these pictures pretty.
It also meant that during the battle the Japanese were able to reinforce bunkers that the Marines had already cleared using flamethrowers and grenades, catching the attackers unawares and causing heavy casualties.
The Japanese also fought almost to the last man. Of 21,000 defenders, just 216 surrendered or were captured – some of whom had been knocked unconscious first.
The defending troops refused to surrender even though they were guaranteed to lose the battle from the start, with no possibility of retreat or reinforcement, and were simply looking to delay the Americans while defenses were prepared on the mainland.
Despite the casualties suffered in taking Iwo Jima, the strategic importance of the island to the future war efforts was questioned early on and remains controversial.
Speaking in 1945, retired Chief of Naval Operations William V. Pratt called Iwo Jima ‘a small, God-forsaken island, useless to the Army as a staging base and useless to the Navy as a fleet base’.
The chief objectives in taking the island were to stop Japanese attacks on American bombers heading toward the Japanese mainland, and to be used as a launchpad for its eventual invasion.
But analysis shows that only 11 bombers were shot down by fighters from the island, and the invasion of Japan never took place after the dual nuclear bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima forced the country to surrender.