Defense Media Network

Iwo Jima: A Brief Chronology

February 19 – D-day

• 0640-0800: Ships off Iwo; for 85 minutes, vessels bombard island from end to end.

• 0805: Naval gunfire ceases. 72 fighter planes and bombers spray rockets, bombs, and machine gun bullets on flanks of landing beaches and adjacent area. 48 additional fighter craft hit landing areas with napalm bombs, rockets, and machine gun bullets.

• 0825: Planes depart. Vessels resume bombardment, concentrating on landing beaches and vicinity.

• 0845: Vessels begin rolling barrage, going 200 yards inland. When Marines land, naval gunfire moves ahead in 200-yard steps.

• 0859: The first Marine forces reach shore. 0902: Marines begin to move toward inland terraces as other troops pour ashore.

• 0930: First call for an ambulance boat is made.

February 20 – D+1

• Col. Harry Liversedge leads 11-hour charge of 28th Marines but only gains 200 yards.

• During fight for Mt. Suribachi, battalions from 23rd, 24th, and 25th Marines of 4th Division and 26th and 27th Marines of 5th Division secure airfield and push northward into heart of enemy defenses. 5th Division zone makes first gains; stiffest resistance from Japanese troops in zone of 25th Marines along east coast. Still, deepest penetration of 25th Marines is 200 yards.

February 21 – D+2

• 40-plane air strike precedes attack –all battalions employed. Good support by tanks, 37 mm guns, and half-tracks mounting 75 mm cannon. Regiment gets to foot of mountain after smothering a counterattack. That night, Japanese suicide planes strike at vessels gathered off island.

• 21st Marines of 3rd Marine Division ordered ashore to reinforce 4th Marine Division.

• 5th Division makes more gains along northern front, but are battered. Maj. Gen. Cates’ tactical plans hampered by impossible terrain.



February 22 – D+3

• Marines surround Mt. Suribachi despite heavy opposition in center of regimental zone.

• Two front-line units relieved, but operation hampered by rain, enemy fire, and broken terrain. Relief is accomplished. • Japanese pin down 23rd Marines, who were scheduled to be relieved by 21st Marines.

February 23 – D+4

• Small patrol from Company F, 2nd Battalion, reconnoiters suitable routes to scale slopes of Mt. Suribachi. Patrol leader Sgt. Sherman Watson radios as he moves along that Japanese are holed up. Lt. Col. Chandler Johnson decides to send a 40-man combat patrol, survivors of 3rd platoon of Company E, under Lt. Harold Schrier’s command, to seize and occupy crest. Photographer Sgt. Lou Lowery of Leatherneck accompanies the patrol to record the attempt on Mt. Suribachi.

• At 1030, the Stars and Stripes are raised by Schrier, Platoon Sgt. Ernest T. Thomas, Sgt. Henry O. Hansen, Cpl. Charles W. Lindberg, Pfc. James Robinson, and Pfc. James Michels. Four hours later, the second and more famous flag-raising is made.

• Schmidt decides to attack Motoyama Airfield No. 2 with 21st Marines and use tank assault.

February 24 – D+5

• 3rd Marine Division enters the battle. They are to drive along rugged tableland of Iwo’s northern plateau; once controlled, they can attack from the many ridge lines leading from plateau to sea.

• 76-minute naval bombardment, pounding from Marine artillery, and carrier air strike precede 0915 crossing of divisional boundary line by tanks from 5th Marine Division to western portion of airfield. Simultaneously, 4th Division armor push toward eastern edge of field. Vehicles withdraw from western assault because of mines and anti-tank gunfire. 12 tanks reach eastern edge of blasted enemy holed up in hills to north. Along axis of Marine attack, 5th Division advances 500 yards. 4th Division is stalled by dug-in Japanese.

February 25

• 3rd Division 9th Marines pass through lines of 21st Marines. Losses heavy as main Japanese defense lines hold.

February 27

• In evening, 9th Marines seize control of twin hills north of Airfield No. 2.

February 28

• 21st Marines overrun ruins of Motoyama Village and seize hills that dominate Airfield 3, still under construction.

• 4th Marine Division struggles to take Hill 382 on right of Airfield 2.

• 5th Marine Division stalled by defenders on Hill 362A.

March 1

• Assignment to capture Hill 362A given to 28th Marines, who had taken Mt. Suribachi. Few Marines briefly got to summit on February 27, but had to pull back to maintain contact with rest of regiment. 224 Marines killed and wounded, but Hill 362A is taken.

• 4th day of relentless attack into Meat Grinder. Effort directed at Hill 382 –naval gunfire, artillery, and air strikes used. Japanese have to be blasted or burned out of positions by bazookas, grenades, or flame throwers. Attempt to envelop Turkey Knob thwarted; Marines pull back under cover of a smoke screen and an artillery barrage.

March 2

• Hill 362A is overrun and neighboring Nishi Ridge, just to north, is captured.

March 3

• Hill 362B falls to 26th Marines.

March 7

• 3rd Division poised to hurl itself against Japanese troops, who have been lulled into sense of security at night. They begin assault before dawn on Iwo’s darkened terrain. At day break, one company is out of position and other is engaged in intense firefight; when they reunite, they take Hill 362C.

March 8

• Desperate Japanese who are battling 4th Marine Division gamble on a counterattack. Intensity of mortar and artillery fire increases. Japanese try to crawl through lines of 23rd and 24th Marines. Their attack is directed at point where 23rd and 24th regimental zones join; by noon, 650 Japanese have been killed.

March 9

• Loss of Hill 362C breaks down coordination of Lt. Gen. Kuribayashi’s defenses. Patrols from three Marine divisions reach the northern and western seacoast.

March 10

• 4th Division finishes off Turkey Knob and the Amphitheater, and pushes Japanese patrols to the coast.

March 13

• 5th Division compresses Japanese troops into the area around Kitano Point. The 3rd Division joins them and grinds out a 400-yard gain. In the path of 25th Marines is a gorge honeycombed with caves. 500 Japanese defenders in caves refuse to surrender, and are killed by 25th Marines.

March 16

• 3rd Division focuses on heavily fortified resistance near Hill 362C. Last Japanese resistance crushed.

March 25

• Senior officer among surviving Japanese troops contacts remaining soldiers. They assemble in vicinity of Airfield No. 2.

March 26

• Japanese launch final attack, catching Americans sleeping. 5th Pioneer Battalion, the Army’s fighter command units, and Marines 8th Field Depot hold off attackers until dawn; manhunt ensues for retreating Japanese. 223 Japanese killed, possibly including Kuribayashi.

April 4

• U.S. Marines leave Iwo Jima and are relieved by an Army infantry regiment.


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