Despite the best of intententions, intelligence collected by a joint information center prior to the assault on Iwo Jima—right, in the distance, shrouded in naval gunfire smoke—underestimated Japanese defenses and troop strength, making a tough battle all the more difficult for the Marines who stormed the beach.
On 19 February 1945, the U.S. Marine Corps launched one of history's bloodiest amphibious operations. The 3d, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions, supported by hundreds of ships and tactical aircraft, battled for more than a month on Iwo Jima, an island two miles long and five miles wide. It was a ferocious fight that resulted in legendary feats of heroism. Marine and Navy casualties totaled 28,686, with 6,821 killed in action, one of the highest U.S. death tolls in the Pacific War. 1 The Japanese made the battle tough with their expertly engineered defensive positions and fanatic refusal to surrender. But inadequate knowledge of the enemy's capabilities and intentions made it tougher. For Iwo Jima, U.S. intelligence underestimated the number of Japanese combatants on the island, their weapons, their defense, and the terrain they occupied.