Pacific Counterpunch: Battle of Iwo Jima


By: Nathan Chandler

5 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Following the disaster at Pearl Harbor, the United States began a long journey of vengeance. But the Japanese would not go quietly. How much do you know about the Battle of Iwo Jima?

When did the Battle of Iwo Jima take place?

The battle didn't occur until March of 1945, as World War II spiraled towards its long and bloody end.


How long did the battle last?

The five-week battle began in late February 1945 and lasted until nearly the end of March.


What is Iwo Jima?

Iwo Jima is an island that's part of the Japanese Volcano Islands, about 750 miles from Tokyo.


What does "Iwo Jima" mean in English?

Iwo Jima is "sulfur island," in reference to the volcanic eruptions that helped create it.


How many Japanese airfields were there on the island, which is only 8 square miles in area?

The Japanese were using the island as an air base of sorts. There were three airfields that they used to launch sorties against the Allies.


A photographer captured an iconic moment when American troops raised a flag on the island's highest point. How high is that point?

Iwo Jima isn't exactly a mountainous area. The highest point, where the Americans raised a flag during the battle, is only about 530 feet above sea level.


Before the battle began, American commanders were concerned that the Japanese might be able to win the fight.

The Americans had overwhelming advantages in numbers, supplies and air power. The Japanese were doomed once the battle began...and everyone knew it.


What was the name of the American operation meant to capture the island?

Operation Detachment was the name of the attack meant to capture the island in the hopes of using the area as a launching pad for attacks on the Japanese mainland.


How many U.S. service personnel took part in the operation?

The Japanese had heavily fortified the area in anticipation of an assault. About 110,000 Americans took part in the operation designed to wrest the island from Japanese control.


At the beginning of the battle, how many Japanese soldiers were dug in and ready to fight the Americans?

There were about 21,000 Japanese soldiers ready for action. Most of them were prepared to fight to the death.


What was the condition of the Japanese navy at the beginning of the battle?

By March 1945, the Japanese navy had been ravaged by America's forces. It didn't have the strength to ward off American troop landings.


Photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the iconic flag-raising moment on Iwo Jima. For which organization did Rosenthal work?

Rosenthal was an Associated Press photographer present during the battle. For his work, he won the Pulitzer Prize.


How was the iconic photo received by the American public?

Rosenthal's flag-raising photo became an inspiration to Americans everywhere, reinvigorating public support for the war and infusing the war bond trade with billions of dollars.


At which point of the battle did Rosenthal capture his famous picture?

The battle was just five days old when Rosenthal made his timeless picture. After the picture was taken, American troops still faced weeks of harrowing work on Iwo Jima.


Of the six American Marines pictured in Rosenthal's famous image, how many survived the battle?

Before the battle ended, three of the Marines would be dead. The image helped to immortalize their service and sacrifice.


Before the American invasion, how many artillery shells did the U.S. drop on Iwo Jima?

About 22,000 shells rocked Iwo Jima, along with hundreds of tons of bombs dropped by plane. Still, the Japanese survived, ready for the inevitable American beach assault.


How were the Japanese defenses at Iwo Jima different than in other Pacific battles?

In most Pacific battles, the Japanese took great effort to fight on the beaches. At Iwo Jima, they created extensive tunnels deep underground, a fact that took American commanders by surprise.


Before the battle started, American commanders thought it would take about how long to capture Iwo Jima?

The Americans were overconfident, certain of a one-week victory. Instead, fierce Japanese resistance turned the battle into a five-week slog.


How did the Americans initiate the attack?

The Americans bombed the island with artillery and bombs for about nine months in an effort to make the invasion as easy as possible. But the deep, strong Japanese fortifications protected many soldiers from harm.


What were Japanese supplies like before the battle?

The Japanese built hardened bunkers that repelled many American attacks, but they were short on supplies. They didn't have enough food or ammo to last more than a few weeks.


How long did the Japanese have to prepare for the battle?

The American invaders had their work cut out for them. The Japanese knew that Iwo Jima would become a point of conflict, so they spent the better part of a year building up the island's fortifications.


When American Marines landed, they faced what sort of terrain?

The beaches weren't the easy trek that American intelligence expected. Instead, Marines had to trudge over and through piles of soft volcanic ash that slowed their progress.


The Japanese defenders allowed American Marines to come ashore unmolested.

The Japanese held their fire until the unwary Americans were piling men and machines onto the beaches. Then, the Japanese opened fire, killing and wounding many American troops.


During the battle, a corporal named Tony Stein earned the Medal of Honor in part by using what sort of weapon?

Stein became famous for using a .30-caliber machine gun from the wing of a fighter plane. He used the gun to blast heavy fortifications on the island. Stein also saved numerous wounded Marines by dragging them to safety.


How many American sailors died due to Japanese kamikaze (suicide) pilots?

Japanese commanders had just a few kamikaze pilots at their disposal, but these suicidal pilots were grimly effective. They killed more than 300 American sailors.


When did the last Japanese soldiers surrender on Iwo Jima?

The Pacific War ended in September 1945. Yet two Japanese soldiers held their positions until 1949, a testament to their fortitude and survival abilities.


How many American soldiers were killed during the battle?

For a battle that was only expected to last about a week, Iwo Jima became a bloodbath. About 7,000 Americans lost their lives trying to capture the island.


Japanese casualties outnumbered U.S. casualties three to one.

Iwo Jima was a costly victory for the Americans. It was the only Pacific battle in which American casualties (including wounded, killed and missing) was higher than those incurred by the Japanese.


How many Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner?

Of the roughly 21,000 Japanese troops on Iwo Jima, most fought to the death. American troops captured only about 216 enemies.


How did the Americans plan to use Iwo Jima once it was under U.S. control?

The Americans were planning long-range bombing missions against the Japanese mainland. Iwo Jima was a convenient place for damaged bombers to land.


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