Two mass graves that may hold the remains of up to 2,000 Japanese soldiers have been discovered on the island of Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest and most iconic battlesites of World War II, a report and officials said today. A team of Japanese searchers has discovered 51 remains in two areas listed by the US military after the war as enemy cemeteries, one of which could contain as many as 2,000 bodies, Japan's Kyodo news agency said.
The operation began early this month and the recovery effort is expected to take several months. The discovery of the remains would be one of the biggest breakthroughs in decades toward finding the bodies of roughly 12,000 Japanese who remain missing and presumed dead after the 1945 battle on the island, which has been renamed Iwoto by the Japanese government. Virtually all of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers tasked with defending the rugged, volcanic crag were killed in the battle.