Iwo Jima's location midway between Japan and American bomber bases in the Mariana Islands was key to both countries strategies. Since the summer of 1944, American long-range B-29 bombers had been flying 2,700 miles to strike the Japanese Home Islands. Many of these unescorted bombers fell prey to Japanese defenses and were lost at sea. With Iwo Jima's airfields in American hands, U. S. fighter planes could escort bombing missions and damaged bombers could use the island as a sanctuary.
The Japanese were well prepared for this battle and would defend the island to their death. The Marines had the ability to take the island but, the question was, at what cost?
The battle for Iwo Jima lasted from February 19 to March 26, 1945. Over 70,000 troops, mostly Marines, engaged over 21,000 Japanese defenders. Nearly 20,000 Marines and sailors were wounded and almost 7,000 killed during the battle. Only 1,100 Japanese troops survived. The capture of Iwo Jima produced immediate benefits to the strategic bombing campaign. By war's end, 2,400 B-29s made forced landings on the island.