Bob Dekle, former Assistant State Attorney (1975-2005)
There was no formal surrender. The Japanese weren’t into surrendering. After a little over a month of fighting General Kuribayashi ordered his men to make one last midnight suicide attack, and the following morning he committed ritual seppuku. The island was then declared to be secured because it was believed that all enemy combat troops had been killed, captured, or committed suicide. Then some Japanese who were hiding out in caves and tunnels attempted a massacre.
Since the island was “secured,” somebody decided it was time to collect everyone’s weapons for storage. No need for firearms after the battle was over, right? Luckily, not all the firearm were collected. Approximately 280 uncaptured holdouts took advantage of the situation to make a nighttime attack on a bivouac consisting of a hodgepodge of men, mostly non-combatant troops. At 5:15 am the Japanese hit the bivouac from three directions. They were among the tents knifing sleeping Americans before any response could be made. By a stroke of luck, the main attack hit the Marines 5th Pioneer Battalion, who were not frontline combat troops but of the men in the bivouac were the ones most familiar with ground combat. They fended off two waves of attackers. It was touch and go for a while, but Marines from the Fifth Division, who were preparing to board a ship, joined the melee. The attack was finally contained at 8:00 am when a company from the Army’s 147th Infantry Regiment arrived with a flamethrower tank. When it was over 44 airmen and 9 Marines lay dead. Wounded numbered 88 airmen and 31 Marines. The attacking party’s casualties were 262 dead and 18 captured.
Sources: Bill D. Ross, “Iwo Jima: Legacy of Valor;” oral communication from my father, who fought on Iwo Jima as a member of the Third Marine Division.