Contents - Hirohito's War
34 Iwo Jima: The Iconic Battle of the Pacific War
[February 1945–March 1945]
[Maps: 34.1, 34.2, 34.3]
Luzon or Formosa? (p 977) Lieutenant-General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (p 980) Building the Killing Machine (p 981) Spruance’s Plans for the Invasion of Iwo Jima (p 982) Bombardment and Landing at Iwo Jima (p 984) A Flag on Mount Suribachi (p 986) Into the ‘Meatgrinder’ (p 987) Public Criticism in America (p 989)
Luzon or Formosa? [Map: 34.1] In September 1944, after Admiral Spruance’s return to Pearl Harbor from his successful conclusion to the Marianas Campaign [see Chapter 30: The Invasions of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam: General Tojo Upended] Admiral Nimitz told him to go back to California for a holiday. He was ordered to report back in two weeks: “the next operation is going to be Formosa and Amoy”1 Nimitz told him. Spruance responded “I would prefer taking Iwo Jima and Okinawa.” Nimitz insisted, “Well, it’s going to be Formosa.”2 The real debate however, which had plagued the US Joint Chiefs of Staff for the best part of a year, was whether it would be better to take Luzon or Formosa.
As many others had done before him, Spruance had studied the maps and believed that an invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa would provide the airfields that the United States needed to dominate the East China Sea and complete the economic strangulation of Japan. Unlike Formosa a thousand miles to the west, Iwo Jima lay on the direct route to Tokyo from the Marianas. Interior lines of communication and supply from Saipan, Guam and Tinian seemed to make the advance to Iwo Jima and then Okinawa the logical path. In spite of Admiral King’s seeming cast iron support for the invasion of Formosa from the US Joint Chiefs of Staff’s and the two volume study that supported it, Spruance was adamant that it was a plan that would never be adopted and ordered his staff not to waste their time working on it.
Spruance returned to California to see his wife and daughter in the small town of Monrovia. His grump at being told that he would have to invade Formosa was compounded by the loss of his friend and Chief of Staff, Captain Carl Moore, who at Admiral King’s insistence was replaced by Rear-Admiral Cayley Davis. King and Nimitz had insisted that all four-star admirals should have a three-star chief of staff; furthermore ‘sailor’ (‘black shoe’) admirals were required to have ‘aviator’ (‘brown shoe’) chiefs of staff while ‘aviator’ (‘brown shoe’) admirals were required to have ‘sailor’ (‘black shoe’) chiefs of staff. For Moore, promotion to Rear-Admiral, which would have enabled him to stay on in the role of Chief of Staff to Spruance, was repeatedly turned down by King. Spruance thus harbored a double grievance toward the head of the Navy in Washington.
Realising that the operational team built by Moore was superb in every respect, Rear- Admiral Davis made no attempt to change it and concentrated instead on making sure