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Iwo Jima was needed at the time so allied bombers could have a landing strip away from the Japanese mainland as the war with Japan escalated.

Byrd and his fellow Marines got there in February of 1945. They were unaware that scores of Japanese were hidden underground in an elaborate network of tunnels.

“They waited until we got all ashore — two divisions — before they let us have it with everything they had at about 9 or 10 o’clock that morning,” he recalls.

The men eventually got control of the island, a feat memorialized in one of the most famous photographs in all of World War II. That picture was also the basis for the Iwo Jima memorial at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.

The battle took over a month and cost some 6,800 Americans their lives. It was a much longer and deadlier battle than planned.


  • Byrd, Billy

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