IwoJima1

The Marine Corps War Memorial, commonly referred to as The Iwo Jima Memorial

I frequently use the anniversary of an historical event as the basis for my choice of a destination for my daily bike ride.  Since today is the anniversary of the beginning of the U.S. Marines’ invasion during World War II of the island of Iwo Jima, I chose to ride to the Marine Corps War Memorial, also commonly referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial.

It was on this day in 1945 that the Marines’ invasion of Iwo Jima, named “Operation Detachment”, began.  At the time, Iwo Jima was a barren Pacific island guarded by Japanese artillery.  But to American military minds, it was prime real estate on which to build airfields to launch bombing raids against Japan, only 660 miles away.

The battle began with an American military aerial bombardment of the Japanese defenses on the island.  This lasted 74 days and was the longest pre-invasion bombardment of the war.  Underwater demolition teams known as “frogmen” were then dispatched by the Americans just before the actual invasion. When the Japanese fired on the frogmen, they gave away many of their “secret” gun positions.  The amphibious landings of Marines subsequently began on the morning of February 19th.

As the Marines made their way onto the island, seven Japanese battalions opened fire on them. By evening, more than 550 Marines were dead and more than 1,800 were wounded. The capture of Mount Suribachi, the highest point of the island and bastion of the Japanese defense, took four more days and many more casualties. When the American flag was finally raised on Iwo Jima, the memorable image was captured in a famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press that later won the Pulitzer Prize.  It is this photograph upon which the Iwo Jima Memorial was designed and built.

The Iwo Jima Memorial is a military memorial statue located just outside of the walls of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia (MAP).   As inscribed on the front of the memorial, it is dedicated “In honor and memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since November 1775.”  The location and date of every major Marine Corps engagement up to the present are inscribed in chronological order around the base of the memorial, including the battle of Iwo Jima.

The official dedication of the memorial by President Dwight D. Eisenhower occurred on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the Marine Corps.  In 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation that flag of the United States fly from the memorial 24 hours a day, one of the few official sites where this is required.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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