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Early February 1945 USMC pre-invasion map of Iwo Jima, showing Mt. Suribachi, estimated at $2,000-$4,000 at CNY Militaria & Collectibles.

Trio of 1945 Iwo Jima pre-invasion maps, made by the Marines, command attention at CNY July 20

JAMESVILLE, NY – An extraordinary trio of maps appears as separate lots in the Saturday, July 20 auction at CNY Militaria & Collectibles. Dating to early February 1945, these United States Marine Corps (USMC) maps depict aspects of Iwo Jima, the volcanic island 700 miles from Tokyo that was the site of five weeks of combat between US and Japanese forces. Each map is individually estimated at $2,000-$4,000. The sale catalog is now open for bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest in the Pacific theater in World War II, and it looms large in Americans’ collective memory of the conflict. More than 6,800 Marines were killed and more than 19,000 were wounded – numbers that slightly exceeded the damage inflicted on the Japanese, who lost 18,000 of the estimated force of 20,000 it sent to defend the island.

The maps depict, in turn, enemy installations on Iwo Jima; several numbered airfields, which share the name Motoyama; and Mt. Suribachi, which counts as the island’s tallest peak, at 546 feet (166 meters) tall.

For all their detail, the maps did not reflect the extent and the strength of the Japanese fortifications on Iwo Jima, which included 11 miles of tunnels, linked underground bunkers, and other defenses that would dispatch hundreds of US fighters to their deaths. The maps also overstated the impact of the months-long American bombing campaign, which was far less effective than US military intelligence had believed.

Mt. Suribachi entered legend when Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured an image of six Marines raising the American flag on its peak. That immortal shot won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for photography and later was rendered in three dimensions as the United States Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.

The lot notes for the maps say nothing about their provenance, but they almost certainly came from the same source, and all three were physically on the island during combat. The notes for each state: ‘the edges show significant wear consistent with being carried in battle’.