At 9:00 a.m. on February 19, 1945, the soldiers of the United States Marine Corps 5th Division, H Company lowered themselves down rope cargo nets into landing crafts rocking in five-foot seas. They were less than a mile from the shore of the remote South Pacific island of Iwo Jima.
H Company was made up mostly of 18 to 20 year-old boys who had been training for this day for over a year. For most of them, Iwo Jima was their first time in combat. The boys knew little of the island. They had seen mock-ups in briefings but nothing could have prepared them for what lay ahead on the black sand beaches of “Iwo.”
Through compelling first person accounts, dramatic recreations and archival footage, this two-hour docudrama follows in the boot steps of the boys of H Company as they fight one of the costliest battles in U.S. History.
In the war in the Pacific, Iwo Jima was crucial to the U.S. as an air base for long-range bombing missions against mainland Japan. The Japanese knew the island’s importance and spent years “digging in” in preparation for the inevitable U.S. attack. Seizing Iwo Jima was necessary, but the prize would not come easily.
On that February morning, the boys of H Company stormed the beaches at Iwo Jima, along with 60,000 other Marines. One of the boys remembers, “The beach was chaos…we were under constant fire. It was almost impossible to land there and not get wounded or killed… How we ever took it, I don’t know.”
As H Company fought their way inland they battled the determination of a fully fortified enemy. The Japanese were fighting from pillboxes and a vast network of tunnels with hidden entrances. They could surround the Marines at any moment.
“Five of us got up to move forward. That’s when they opened up. At first we didn’t know where they were. They’d come out of this hole and now they were behind us. Four men were wounded right away.”
Every inch of ground the Marines took was at an extreme cost. Three days after they landed, the Marines raised the flag on Mount Suribachi. They thought the battle was over, but it raged on for 33 more days.
On Iwo Jima, nearly 7,000 American soldiers were killed and over 20,000 wounded. The Japanese lost nearly 22,000 men. Of the 80 United States Marines awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II, 22 of them were at Iwo Jima.
Admiral Nimitz characterized the fighting men by saying “Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”