As we remember the massive sacrifices made by American amphibious forces on the tiny island of Iwo Jima from February 19 through March 26, 1945, it is important to reflect on the strategic importance of that volcanic outcropping to both Japan’s defense of her homeland and to America’s strategy to end the war — massive amphibious attacks on the Home Islands of Japan.
The Bonin and Volcano Islands lie halfway between Honshu (Tokyo) and the Marianas. The three most important islands of those two neighboring groups were HaHa Jima, Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima — home to two enemy airfields. The Japanese defensive plans (as Americans encroached their defenses by victories in the Marshalls and Marianas) always included shuttling fighter planes from Honshu to Okinawa and Iwo Jima airstips.
Taking Iwo Jima would give America a vital airfield about 700 miles from Tokyo, and strip her of vital air-defense “reach”. After B-24 bases were established at Tinian and Saipan in the Marianas, Iwo as an American airbase would prove invaluable to the strategic Air campaign that ran concurrent with the Navy’s campaign against Tokyo.
Navy planners and commanders took Iwo Jima VERY seriously. Before it could ever be invaded, it had to be neutralized several times in the year or so prior to the February 1945 Marine invasion. No one task group nor one group commander is more synonymous with Iwo Jima than is TG58.1 and “Jocko” Clark. Under his command, the Boston participated in three major assaults against Iwo Jima — twice spearheading the close-up bombardments (as flagship of Cruiser Division10) of airstrips and facilities on Iwo and the Volcano Islands.
Jocko Clark had such a personal interest in attacking Iwo, that one of his raids (at his initiation and suggestion) came to be known as “Operation Jocko”.
I will detail the raids against IWO JIMA in my next blog.