Was Iwo Jima a waste of US lives?

I always felt it was a horrible waste of Japanese lives (yes, I understand they were doing all they could to delay an invasion of the homeland, but…), but the thought just occurred to me: did we really need to invade Iwo Jima?

The ostensible justification has always been that US possession of the airstrtips on Iwo allowed our damaged bombers to make emergency landings (when they otherwise likely would have crashed into the sea). Histories say that this was justified even before the island was fully under US control–a B-29 made an emergency landing on Iwo during the battle itself!

But capturing Iwo cost us almost 7,000 lives, and another 19,000 wounded. How many bombers actually landed on Iwo, and how many lives did our possession of the island save?

Hind sight is 20-20. Tarawa was also unneccesary and we could have done without the Anzio invasion. They had to work with what they had available at the time. :frowning:

I’ll have to find the numbers, but my memory is that somewht more that 9,000 aircrew landed at Iwo with damaged or fuel-depleted aircraft.

Presumably Iwo would have taken on a much greater importance if the US had invaded Japan. You can’t judge the campaign except in view of the strategic necessities of the moment. In the event, the base may not have been needed, but it might well have been vital in other scenarios.

Jarhead chiming in:

From what I’ve been able to find 2400 B-29s landed on Iwo Jima before’s war end, carrying over 27,000 crew men[1]. Nearly 7000 Marines and Sailors died in the battle.
[1] http://www.iwojima.com/battle/battled.htm

The Volcano Islands, of which Iwo Jima was a part, were seen as strategically important by both Japan and the US.

The Japanese had already lost Guam and the Marianas and felt that they were wide open for an inevitable American invasion of the home islands. With the Imperial Navy having lost most of its strength by that time and unable to provide any meaningful defense of the home islands, Japan chose Iwo Jima as a fitting place for a stand. The intent was to use the established forces at Iwo in a delaying tactic (using any means at their disposal, including Kamikaze attacks) to give Japan time to prepare the homeland for invasion.

The US needed Iwo not only for the airfields it would provide (which would, BTW, dramatically cut the distance US bombers needed to travel before being over Japan) but also to knock out the harrassment from the Japanese remaining on the island. Remember, until the bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, commanders in the Pacific (on both sides) were still planning for an actual invasion.

In a discussion of a member of the Marine Corps’s complaint that the invasion was not necessary, this site points out that

That number would actually be lower because later in the war some B-29s began flying with a reduced number of gunners, but then the number has to be increased to account for P-51 nad P-47 pilots who landed there. And, as the linked site points out, both the Army Air Force and the Navy operated Search and Rescue operations from that base, increasing the number of aircrew who were rescued because more S&R flights could be mounted from Iwo than from Saipan.

Cool. Thanks.

War is not fully predictable. We did not know what we were going to do, precisely, and neither did the Japanese. To that end, we chose and took strategic sites suitable for several different major operations as seemed necessary. It’s not surprising that we didn’t get to use all of them.