Mount Suribachi 70 years ago – Marine Corps Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin

Today, the Marine Corps Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers the raising of the flag that became the symbol of the US Marines.

On February 23, 1945, the following article published by the Spokane Daily Chronicle gave those at home a glimpse into the struggles and triumphs in the Pacific Theater.


Old Glory Is Raised Over Mount Suribachi

United States Pacific Fleet Headquarters, Guam, Feb. 23.

American marines reached the summit of Mount Suribachi at the southern tip of Iwo Jima today, and began a renewed drive on the central airfield after repulsing two Japanese counterattacks.

The Stars and Stripes were raised over the volcanic Suribachi fortress 97 hours after the costly invasion began and marines began cleaning out Japanese still clinging to the crater with flamethrowers.

Little progress was made elsewhere in the most costly fight in which the marines have ever been engaged—a fight that cost 5373 American casualties, including 644 dead, in the first three days.

Swimmers Mopped Up.

Japanese swimmers made a hopeless attempt to attack American forces on the western side of the island from the rear last night. They were mopped up on the beaches this morning.

Carrier aircraft sweeping over the Bonin Islands in proactive sweeps to eliminate repeated enemy attacks on American shipping assembled off Iwo shot down three Japanese planes.

Surmounting of Suribachi was the brightest spot in the entire Iwo campaign.

The leathernecks won command of the 566-foot height from which the Japanese had cast down a deadly mortar and artillery fire on other marines spread out over the south third of the embattled island. Its capture eliminated the threat to the rear of three devil dog divisions attempting to drive north where the main strength of the enemy garrison is dug in.

Adm. Chester W. Nimitz condensed the drama into this special communiqué: “The 28th regiment of the United States marines was observed raising the United States flag on the summit of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Island at 10:35 am today.”

The extinct volcanic cone had been encircled by the Fourth marine division under Maj. Gen. Clifton B. Cates. Then for 28 hours, the leathernecks clambered up the 45-degree cliffs despite grenades and demolition charges hurled down into their faces by the desperate defenders.

Hammered for Week.

Before that, Mount Suribachi was hammered steadily for more than a week by naval guns and aerial bombs. The defenders fought on until killed in their dugouts by marines advancing hole by hole and cave by cave with flamethrowers, grenades and rifles.

In his earlier communiqué, Nimitz reported strong Japanese counterattacks on both flanks of the American force edging only feed or yards at a time toward the southern fringe of Iwo’s central airfield.

The main airdrome to the south already is in American hands.

One of the counterthrusts apparently was repulsed, but there was no report on the other, on the American right flank.

By official count, 644 United States marines were killed, 4168 wounded and 560 were missing up to 5:45 pm Wednesday. This count covered the first 58 hours of the Iwo fighting. During the same period, 1222 Japanese dead were counted.

No invasion of the Pacific war has been so costly for the Americans. Even on Tarawa, previously considered the bloodiest fight of the war, marine casualties slightly exceeded 3000 for the 72 hours required to kill every Japanese on the island.

Nimitz’s latest communiqué added 276 American dead and 560 missing to the previous toll, counted up to 5:45 pm Wednesday. The figure for the wounded was the same. The earlier count was more in the nature of a preliminary estimate.

Northern Line.

The northern battle line of the three United States marine divisions fighting on Iwo fringed the southern end of the central airfield, which is on a plateau. This is where the Japanese launched two counterattacks yesterday with rifles and mortars, but came under the withering fire of American artillery and naval guns.

Japanese air strength appears to be reviving after crippling blows to Tokyo airfields delivered last week by American carrier planes. One small group of Japanese aircraft attacked shipping near Iwo yesterday and two other small groups approached the area.

American fighters and anti-aircraft fire shot down six planes.

Enemy bombers made a similar attack at sunset Wednesday, causing “some” damage to fleet units.

The most cheering note in today’s communiqué was the report that “conditions on the beaches were generally improved,” and “a substantial quantity of supplies were unloaded.”


Just under that story, a short article presented the opposition’s view of the fighting:


Japanese Claim.

San Francisco, Feb. 23.

An unconfirmed radio Tokyo broadcast, picked up by the Blue network today, claimed that American marines on Iwo Jima have been driven back to the landing beachheads after being forced to abandon “one position after another by daring Japanese infiltration tactics.”

Tokyo added that bad weather and Japanese air attacks have prevented the Americans from landing additional men and supplies on the southern tip of the island.


The Marine Corps Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows against a background of the Marine Corps monument in Arlington, VA.

Marine Corps Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin