Year
1945
Month Day
March 16

Fighting on Iwo Jima ends

The west Pacific volcanic island of Iwo Jima is declared secured by the U.S. military after weeks of fiercely fighting its Japanese defenders.

The Americans began applying pressure to the Japanese defense of Iwo Jima in February 1944, when B-24 and B-25 bombers raided the island for 74 days straight. It was the longest pre-invasion bombardment of the war, necessary because of the extent to which the Japanese–21,000 strong–fortified the island, above and below ground, including a network of caves. Underwater demolition teams (“frogmen”) were dispatched by the Americans just before the actual invasion to clear the shores of mines and any other obstacles that could obstruct an invading force. In fact, the Japanese mistook the frogmen for an invasion force and killed 170 of them.

The amphibious landings of Marines began the morning of February 19, 1945, as the secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, accompanied by journalists, surveyed the scene from a command ship offshore. The Marines made their way onto the island–and seven Japanese battalions opened fire, obliterating them. By that evening, more than 550 Marines were dead and more than 1,800 were wounded.

READ MORE: How US Marines Won the Battle of Iwo Jima

In the face of such fierce counterattack, the Americans reconciled themselves to the fact that Iwo Jima could be taken only one yard at a time. A key position on the island was Mt. Suribachi, the center of the Japanese defense. The 28th Marine Regiment closed in and around the base of the volcanic mountain at the rate of 400 yards per day, employing flamethrowers, grenades, and demolition charges against the Japanese that were hidden in caves and pillboxes (low concrete emplacements for machine-gun nests). Approximately 40 Marines finally began a climb up the volcanic ash mountain, which was smoking from the constant bombardment, and at 10 a.m. on February 23, a half-dozen Marines raised an American flag at its peak, using a pipe as a flag post. Two photographers caught a restaging of the flag raising for posterity, creating one of the most reproduced images of the war. With Mt. Suribachi claimed, one-third of Iwo Jima was under American control.

On March 16, with a U.S. Navy military government established, Iwo Jima was declared secured. When all was done, more than 6,000 Marines died fighting for the island, along with almost all the 21,000 Japanese soldiers trying to defend it.

READ MORE: The US Raised the Iwo Jima Flag, then Occupied the Islands for 23 Years

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Bear Stearns collapses, sold to J.P. Morgan Chase

On March 16, 2008, Bear Stearns, the 85-year-old investment bank, narrowly avoids bankruptcy by its sale to J.P. Morgan Chase and Co. at the shockingly low price of $2 per share. With a stock market capitalization of $20 billion in early 2007, Bear Stearns seemed to be riding ...read more

American journalist Terry Anderson kidnapped

In Beirut, Lebanon, Islamic militants kidnap American journalist Terry Anderson and take him to the southern suburbs of the war-torn city, where other Western hostages are being held in scattered dungeons under ruined buildings. Before his abduction, Anderson covered the Lebanese ...read more

First liquid-fueled rocket

The first man to give hope to dreams of space travel is American Robert H. Goddard, who successfully launches the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket at Auburn, Massachusetts, on March 16, 1926. The rocket traveled for 2.5 seconds at a speed of about 60 mph, reaching an altitude ...read more

TDIH-My-Lai

Vietnamese villagers killed by U.S. soldiers in My Lai Massacre

On March 16, 1968, a platoon of American soldiers brutally kills as many as 500 unarmed civilians at My Lai, one of a cluster of small villages located near the northern coast of South Vietnam. The crime, which was kept secret for nearly two years, later became known as the My ...read more

U.S. Military Academy established

The United States Military Academy–the first military school in the United States–is founded by Congress for the purpose of educating and training young men in the theory and practice of military science. Located at West Point, New York, the U.S. Military Academy is often simply ...read more

Judge Roy Bean dies

Roy Bean, the self-proclaimed “law west of the Pecos,” dies in Langtry, Texas. A saloonkeeper and adventurer, Bean’s claim to fame rested on the often humorous and sometimes-bizarre rulings he meted out as a justice of the peace in western Texas during the late 19th century. By ...read more

Motown soul singer Tammi Terrell dies

Over a span of just 12 months beginning in April 1967, the duo of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell enjoyed a string of four straight hits with some of the greatest love songs ever recorded at Motown Records. Sadly, only the first two of those four hits were released while Tammi ...read more

"The Scarlet Letter" is published

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story of adultery and betrayal in colonial America, The Scarlet Letter, is published. Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804. Although the infamous Salem witch trials had taken place more than 100 years earlier, the events still hung over the ...read more

Actor Robert Blake acquitted of wife’s murder

On March 16, 2005, after a three-month-long criminal trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, a jury acquits Robert Blake, star of the 1970s television detective show Baretta, of the murder of his 44-year-old wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. Blake, who was born Mickey Gubitosi in 1933 in New ...read more

18-year-old woman murders her lover

Francisco “Chico” Forster is shot to death on downtown Los Angeles street by his jilted lover, eighteen-year old Lastania Abarta. The forty-year old Forster was the son of wealthy Los Angeles land developer and considered one of the city’s most eligible bachelors despite his ...read more

President Reagan orders troops into Honduras

As part of his continuing effort to put pressure on the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, President Ronald Reagan orders over 3,000 U.S. troops to Honduras, claiming that Nicaraguan soldiers had crossed its borders. As with so many of the other actions taken against ...read more

James Madison, "Father of the Constitution," is born

On March 16, 1751, James Madison, drafter of the Constitution, recorder of the Constitutional Convention, author of the Federalist Papers and fourth president of the United States, is born on a plantation in Virginia. Madison first distinguished himself as a student at the ...read more