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Iwo Jima

The Allied invasion of Iwo Jima, a name that translates as “Sulfur Island,” was among the fiercest and bloodiest battles of the war. A total of 6,800 Marines died and 26,000 more were wounded in the action, which lasted from February 19 to March 26, 1945. Japan’s losses were worse, with more than 18,000 of its 21,000 soldiers dying in combat or by their own hands (preferring ritual suicide to capture), and barely 200 taken prisoner. Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi’s  plans called for a war of attrition. He ordered his soldiers to prepare to die in place and kill 10 Americans or more before they themselves were killed. The eight-square-mile volcanic island’s strategic importance was rooted in its location: Iwo Jima is 700 miles from Tokyo and 350 miles from the nearest U.S. air base.