Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Joe Rosenthal, Iwo Jima Flag Raising Photographer Passes Away

Famous Iwo Jima flag raising photographer, Joe Rosenthal died at the age of 94 this week. His very famous flag raising photo was one of the most remarkable of the last century. Part of this was because of the great sacrifice it took to secure the island as a base for the B29s to drop bombs on Japan to end the war.

Iwo Jima had 20,700 Japanese soldiers stationed on it, and with airbases that launched fighter planes against the American B29s, which were slower and heavy with fuel and bombs, many B29s and their crews were lost when they approached Japan. With radar installations on the island and communications to ground antiaircraft units on mainland Japan, it was essential that the Americans take control of this Island to prevent the loss of so many B29s and their crews. And if the U.S. could station their B29s on this island, then the war should quickly be over it was assumed.

But the 20,700 Japanese soldiers heavily entrenched themselves on this island against any U.S. troop invasion. It took a 100,000 U.S. Marine force two months to secure this island, having to fight for every square inch of it. 6,821 U.S. Marines were killed, and another 20,000 were wounded in this effort. Only 216 of the 20,700 Japanese soldiers allowed themselves to be captured. Japan knew that the loss of this island would doom their war effort or lead to an American occupation of their homeland, which was unacceptable to their way of thinking.

Of ther original soldiers seen in the famous Iwo Jima flag raising, only one survived combat and lived.

But there are some important modern lessons in the battle of Iwo Jima. In three years, 135,000 American soldiers have been unable to stop as few as 10,000 or 12,000 Iraqi insurgents. These insurgents killed 3,500 Iraqi civilians just last month alone. When George Bush encouraged terrorists to "bring it on", it only encouraged a war of wills between Muslim extremists and the American and Iraqi government forces. Rather than getting better, the violence is only worsening and a sectarian war between the Shia and Sunni factions is only taking more and more innocent lives of civilians and has forced U.S. soldiers back to dangerous street mission duty in Baghdad.

In Lebanon, a Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard force of just 2,000 to 3,000 fighters was able to withstand nearly the best that the 500,000 man Israeli army could do to uproot them for the month long conflict.

There are big lessons in this. If anyone thinks that a guerilla war or land invasion of Iran are possible by U.S. forces, then it would be similar to the tough battle of Iwo Jima, except with a 1,000,000 man Iranian Revolutionary Guard army, not just one of 20,700 Japanese. The Marine forces needed a five to one advantage than the Japanese, and still suffered more total dead or wounded than the Japanese forces. This would mean that a U.S. force of 5,000,000 or more may be required for an invasion of Iran, which is far more than our actual standing military forces. And with the same rate of dead and wounded as Iwo Jima, the American combat deaths would total hundreds of thousands with over 1,000,000 wounded.

And unlike WWII, which concluded in several years, Muslim warriors have been in combat since 628 until WWI, with Turkey, and the last of the Ottoman Empire aligned with Germany. Turkey once again hoped to impose Muslim control on parts of Europe. During the Middle Ages, three times Muslim armies sought to defeat Vienna and control all of Europe. War with Muslim radicalism lasts for decades or centuries, not a few years like the wars with Japan or Germany.

Iran has proven itself a real master of low key guerilla warfare and the both the U.S. and Israel have had little good response to their form of combat despite vastly superior weapons. The U.S. and Israel need to see just how difficult such conflicts are with Iranian type guerilla warfare and either find ways to bring Iran into the modern world community, or else find a form of combat that is effective in countering Iranian type of warfare.

To many Muslim extremists, the only sure path to paradise is to lose your life fighting nonbelievers. For most in the U.S. or Israel, these soldiers want to return home and not lose their life in combat.

But the tough battle of Iwo Jima proves just how costly hand to hand combat can be and needs to stand as a lesson to avoid another similar situation. History books aren't just paperweights. They contain many important lessons that should be learned.


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