Iwo Jima

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Landsat photo of Iwo Jima, circa 2000

Iwo Jima Template:Audio (Japanese 硫黄島 Iōtō, or Iōjima, meaning "sulfur island") is a volcanic island in Japan, part of the Volcano Islands (also known as the Ogasawara Islands), approximately 650 miles (1046 km) south of Tokyo (24.78°N, 141.32°E). It has an approximate area of 8 square miles (21 km2). The most prominent feature of the island is Mount Suribachi, a volcano which is thought to be dormant or extinct, and which is 546 feet (166 m) in height.



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The island of Iwo Jima is located 650 miles south of Tokyo.
The island was uninhabited until the 1800s. Japan colonized it and by 1943, a settlement of almost 1,100 Japanese civilians existed on the island. Most of these were either employed at a sugar mill located in the northeastern portion of the island or a sulphur mine and refinery located in the same general area. The inhabitants of Iwo Jima lived in five settlements scattered over the northern half of the island. The northernmost of these was Kita, located in the north central part of Iwo. The village of Nishi was situated in the northwestern part of the island, while Motoyama, the largest built-up area on Iwo, was located in close proximity to the sulphur mine and refinery. The remaining two villages, Higashi and Minami, were located in the northeastern part of the island.

The island was the site of the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, and as a result remained occupied by the United States until 1968. Major industries have included sulfur mining and sugar refining, but the island is presently uninhabited and access requires special permission. The island is administered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Today, Iwo Jima is a very beautiful island, although trees don't grow there. There are no birds and although it's this strange looking it has much beauty. Iwo Jima today is inaccessible to civilians; it's a closed Japanese Naval Base much like Guantanamo Bay. Once a year, an organization in Washington DC brings in civilians. You can pay your money, they fly you from Guam to there and you get to walk around. But there's still live ordnance there." [1] (http://www.webb-institute.edu/Alumni/bradley_lecture.php)


Only the northern part of Iwo Jima has soil permitting some gardening. Vegetables, sugar cane, and dry grains have been raised for local consumption. One of the most serious impediments to large-scale settlement of the island is the total absence of any source of fresh water, such as a lake or a river. Since the island also lacks wells, water has to be obtained from rain carefully collected in concrete cisterns.

While the northern part of the island is barren but habitable, the southern half of Iwo Jima is essentially uninhabitable. Near the narrow southern tip of the island stands Mount Suribachi, which was called by American bombers attempting raids "mount son of of a bitchi". Mount Suribachi is an extinct volcano, which rises to an elevation of about 550 feet (168 m). To the north of Suribachi, inland from the beaches, the ground terraces successively upward to form a broad tableland occupying most of the central section of the island. The area between the northern base of Suribachi and the dome-shaped northern plateau is covered by a deep layer of black, volcanic ash so soft and so much subject to drifting that even walking becomes a problem. Wheeled vehicles cannot negotiate such ground; tracked vehicles can move across it only with difficulty.

The northern plateau consists of several elevations; the highest of these is Hill 382, located just east of Motoyama Airfield No. 2, halfway between Motoyama and Minami; two other hills reach a height of 362 feet (110 m). Much of this terrain consists of rough and rocky ground, interspersed with deep gorges and high ridges. Sulphur vapor permeates the entire area with a characteristic smell of rotten eggs. The ground itself is hot in this part of the island.

The beaches of Iwo Jima from Kitano Point, the northernmost tip of the island, to Tachiiwa Point, two miles (3 km) to the southeast, are steep and narrow with many rocky shoals offshore. They border terrain that rises sharply towards the northern plateau. Rough and broken ground is typical of all beaches on northern Iwo Jima, in numerous instances with cliffs that drop off sharply towards the water's edge. Beaches along the southwestern and southeastern shores of the island vary in depth from 150 to 500 feet (50 to 150 m) and generally are free from rocks offshore. The terrain would be level, rising gradually towards the interior, if it were not for the existence of sand terraces created by the action of waves. These terraces, which differ in height and width, are undergoing a constant change depending on the surf and winds. Surf conditions at Iwo are unfavorable, even under normal conditions. The island does not possess any anchorage or other inlets to protect ships from the fury of the sea. Steep beaches bring breakers close to the shore.


The climate of Iwo Jima is subtropical with a cool season extending from December through April and a warm season from May through November. Temperatures are moderate, with an average ranging between 63 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (17 and 21 degrees Celsius) during the cool period and 73 through 80 degrees Fahrenheit (23 and 27 degrees Celsius) during spring, summer, and autumn. Annual rainfall averages 60 inches (1.5 m), with February the driest month and May the wettest.


The desolation of the island is further accentuated by the sparse vegetation and absence of native animals. In 1944, the only living thing on Iwo, aside from the Japanese, was a bird resembling the American rail, a wading bird related to the cranes, but of medium size.

See also

External links and references

fr:Iwo Jima ko:이오 섬 ja:硫黄島 (東京都) pt:Iwo Jima


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