On 30 June 1944 Kuribayashi was appointed Commander of Ground Forces on Iwo Jima. With his 109th Division he set about building a formidable network of caves and pillboxes which made the island immune to aerial bombardment. The Japanese defenses on Iwo Jima were consistently bombed for months before the invasion by the Marines occurred in February 1945. Kuribayashi was a cavalry officer who had lived for three years in the USA and had great admiration for US industrial power but this did not deter him from his desire to fight to the last. He was tireless in his efforts to resist the Marines and bitter fighting continued until 26 March when the final suicidal attack by the Japanese failed. One of his last messages to Japan was sent on 15 March ‘Have not eaten or drunk for five days. But fighting spirit is running high. We are going to fight bravely to the last moment’—and this he did.