News and Commentary

Ghost Ships From Legendary WWII Battle Suddenly Rise To Surface After Tremors
Ghost ship
Shaunl/Getty Images

More than two dozen ships that sank during the epic World War II battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 have been raised from the bottom of the ocean after tremors at one of Japan’s volcanoes, Mount Suribachi.

“Satellite photos from Japan’s All Nippon News show the leftover hulks of 24 Japanese transport vessels that were captured by the U.S. Navy in the latter part of the war,” the Daily Mail reported.

The ships were sent to the western part of Iwo Jima to form a breakwater to protect other ships at port.

With the tremors at the volcano, the seabed rose, bringing up the ships. “As a result of the activity, the sunken ships are sitting on volcanic ash,” the Mail reported.

“The discolored sea area has spread to surrounding areas, which indicates that the volcanic activity has not diminished yet,” Setsuya Nakada, director of the government’s Volcano Research Promotion Centre, said in an interview with Japan’s All Nippon News channel, reported the Mail. “There is a possibility of a big eruption on Iwo Jima.”

The U.S. military used the island to prepare for assaults on the mainland island of Japan during WWII, but it was known only as Brown Beach on invasion maps. There are no inhabitants on the island, which was returned to Japan in 1968.

Mount Suribachi was the site of the iconic photo known as Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, which shows six U.S. Marines raising the American flag on the peak during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Iwo Jima (the name means “Sulfur Island”) has had at least 10 eruptions in the last century, according to data from Oregon State University. “There has [sic] more then 10 m of uplift on the island since 1952,” the data said.

“The subdued relief of Iwo Jima made it a natural site for airfields during World War II,” the university said. “During the battle for this island nearly 20,000 US and Japanese soldiers lost their lives here. Not only is the volcanic morphology of Iwo Jima different than other island arc volcanoes, so is its composition.”

According to, the toll was even worse: “American forces invaded the island on February 19, 1945, and the ensuing Battle of Iwo Jima lasted for five weeks. In some of the bloodiest fighting of World War II, it’s believed that all but 200 or so of the 21,000 Japanese forces on the island were killed, as were almost 7,000 Marines.”

The 555-foot high Mount Suribachi is listed as one of the top 10 most dangerous volcanoes in Japan. “In August, satellite photos captured the moment that the underwater Fukutoku-Okanoba volcano, roughly three miles north of South Iwo Jima Island, had erupted,” the Mail wrote.

The eruption created a new island in the Ogasawara chain.

Just this month, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake shook Tokyo, swaying buildings. “Japan sits on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire,’ an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin,” the Mail wrote.

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