Stike and Return: American Air Power and the fight for Iwo Jima


Cory Graff


Specialty Press


$29.95 from Specialty Press


Scott Van Aken

Notes: ISBN 1-58007-092-2, Hardbound, 375+ photos

The battle for Iwo Jima in the closing months of WWII is well known by many for one of the bloodiest battles of WWII. In this the US Marines suffered heavy casualties and the Japanese defenders even more. Yet, this volcanic lump in the ocean; barely 8 square miles in size, was vitally important to the US as a staging zone for the upcoming invasion of Japan. It was equally important to the Japanese not to allow it to be captured.

The US particularly wanted it to keep Japanese raiders to Okinawa from having a staging place and to provide an advanced base for US airpower, particularly fighters to escort B-29s on their raids, as the island just wasn't large enough for a B-29 base.

Even while the fighting was still going on, the Seabees were leveling ground and providing a runway so that American planes could start operating. Soon, elements of the 21st  FG began arriving and immediately started supporting the ground fighting.

With the battle basically over, more fighters and other types started arriving. The island also became a haven for damaged B-29s that were unable to make it back to their Marianas bases.

Author Cory Graff has done a superb job of documenting the entire wartime history of Iwo from the Japanese build-up (what little it known), to the early planning for the invasion, the invasion itself including those naval units involved, and the eventual build-up of US airpower. This includes not only the USAAF Mustangs, but Navy patrol squadrons, marine attack units, rescue units and so on. Into the blasted, sandy soil a fully functioning base had to be created and much of the book concentrates on what the US did in this regard.

There is also much in here about these supporting units and what it was like to have to live on Iwo, where there was little else to do when not performing one's job. However, like American servicemen everywhere, some pretty interesting contraptions sprung up from scrap and as much of a normal life ensued. These men were fully expecting to spend a considerable amount of time here so it was natural that they'd be involved in making improvements!

In all, another fascinating and very well done book from Specialty Press. The quality of the photographs (some in color), many from private collections and never before published, as well as a superbly written text makes this a must have book.

May 2006

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