The 26th Marine Regiment (26th Marines) is an inactivated infantry regiment of the United States Marine Corps. The 26th Marines were activated in 1944 and fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II and were activated again on March 1, 1966, and fought in the Battle of Khe Sanh during the Vietnam War.
The Battle of Iwo Jima (19 February – 26 March 1945), or Operation Detachment, was a major battle in which the United States Armed Forces fought for and captured the island of Iwo Jima from the Japanese Empire. The American invasion had the goal of capturing the entire island, including its three airfields (including South Field and Central Field), to provide a staging area for attacks on the Japanese main islands. This five-week battle comprised some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the War in the Pacific of World War II.
After the heavy losses incurred in the battle, the strategic value of the island became controversial. It was useless to the U.S. Army as a staging base and useless to the U.S. Navy as a fleet base. However, Navy SEABEES rebuilt the landing strips, which were used as emergency landing strips for USAAF B-29s.
The Imperial Japanese Army positions on the island were heavily fortified, with a dense network of bunkers, hidden artillery positions, and 18 km (11 mi) of underground tunnels. The Americans on the ground were supported by extensive naval artillery and complete air supremacy over Iwo Jima from the beginning of the battle by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviators.
Iwo Jima was the only battle by the U.S. Marine Corps in which the Japanese combat deaths were thrice those of the Americans throughout the battle. Of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima at the beginning of the battle, only 216 were taken prisoner, some of whom were captured because they had been knocked unconscious or otherwise disabled. The majority of the remainder were killed in action, although it has been estimated that as many as 3,000 continued to resist within the various cave systems for many days afterwards, eventually succumbing to their injuries or surrendering weeks later.
Despite the bloody fighting and severe casualties on both sides, the Japanese defeat was assured from the start. Overwhelming American superiority in arms and numbers as well as complete control of air power — coupled with the impossibility of Japanese retreat or reinforcement — permitted no plausible circumstance in which the Americans could have lost the battle.
The battle was immortalized by Joe Rosenthal's photograph of the raising of the U.S. flag on top of the 166 m (545 ft) Mount Suribachi by five U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy battlefield Hospital Corpsman. The photograph records the second flag-raising on the mountain, both of which took place on the fifth day of the 35-day battle. Rosenthal's photograph promptly became an indelible icon — of that battle, of that war in the Pacific, and of the Marine Corps itself — and has been widely reproduced.