"the battle of iwo jima was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of world war ii. iwo was a small island, and it was "wanted" by the us as a place where the giant b-29s could make emergency landings on their way back from bomb runs over japan. a huge armada of us ships headed to iwo carrying 70,000 us marines, in what was thought to be a tough fight but nothing really disastrous. on the island were 22,000 japanese soldiers, dug in with an intricate system of tunnels and hiding places. some of the tunnels were thirty feet below the surface. the bombing and shelling was relentless, which led the us commanders to believe that the japanese garrison was badly hurt. they were wrong.
the fighting on iwo jima was unbelievably intense. prior to the actual landing, the island was bombed and hit by naval fire for two days around the clock. the japanese fought almost to the last man. japanese general kuribayashi was in charge, and he built numerous hidden gun emplacements plus 30 miles of underground tunnels. the japanese considered it a disgrace and an insult to the emperor to surrender. of the 20,000 japanese on the island, by the end of the fighting, incredibly, only 1083 survived. the americans suffered a horrendous 26,000 casualties and 7,000 dead. the marines were given a record 22 medals of honor with an additional five to navy servicemen. the total of 27 medals of honor is the most ever given in a single us battle."