In May 1945, LtGen Tadamichi Kuribayashi had been summoned to the office of the Japanese Prime Minister, General Tojo, and told that he would be the commander of the garrison on Iwo Jima. Whether by accident or design the appointment proved to be a stroke of genius. Kuribayashi, a samurai and long serving officer with 30 years distinguished service, had spent time in the United States as a deputy attache and had proclaimed to his family: “the United States is the last country in the world that Japan should fight.” He looked upon his appointment as both a challenge and a death sentence. “Do not plan for my return,” he wrote to his wife shortly after his arrival on the island. Kuribayashi succeeded in doing what no other Japanese commander in the Pacific could do - inflict more casualties on the US Marines than his own troops suffered. Fifty-four years old at the time of the battle and quite tall for a Japanese at 5ft 9ins, Radio Tokyo described him as having the “traditional pot belly of a Samurai warrior and the heart of a Tiger.” Lieutenant-General Holland Smith in his memoirs was lavish in his praise for the commander’s ability: “His ground organization was far superior to any I had seen in France in WWI and observers say it excelled the German ground organization in WWII. The only way we could move was behind rolling artillery barrages that pulverized the area and then we went in and reduced each position with flamethrowers, grenades and demolition charges. Some of his mortar and rocket launchers were cleverly hidden. We learned about them the hard way, through sickeningly heavy casualties. Every cave, every pillbox, every bunker was an individual battle where Marines and Japanese fought hand to hand to the death.” Tadamichi Kuribayashi Along with Admiral Yamamoto, LtGen Tadamichi Kuribayashi must rank as Japan's greatest military commander. His brilliant defence of Iwo Jima, in which he abandoned the traditional tactics of attempting to halt the enemy at the beach, succeeded in achieving his purpose of inflicting massive casualties on the invader. Even Holland Smith was to dub him: "Our most redoubtable adversary."