The picture shows a Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as Iwo Jima Memorial, in Arlington Virginia, on January 14, 2007.

Tokyo -

A military radio found in a bunker on Iwo Jima was likely that used by the Japanese army to send their final message before the island was overrun by US soldiers, a report said on Monday.

The transmitter was probably used by the Japanese commander on the island, Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the Tokyo Shimbun said.

Kuribayashi was a leading character in the hit 2006 Clint Eastwood film “Letters From Iwo Jima,” played by Ken Watanabe, who portrayed him as a compassionate and sensible officer, unlike his high-handed comrades.

The two-metre wide transmitter was found in an underground bunker, with the remains of a Japanese soldier located nearby, a health ministry official said.

The ministry is in charge of a programme to recover the remains of Japanese soldiers who died on the island.

The bunker, in the north of the volcanic island, is believed to have functioned as the Japanese Imperial Army's communications centre, the Tokyo Shimbun said.

After analysing testimonies by survivors of the battle of Iwo Jima, the government said it was highly likely that the transmitter was used to dispatch Kuribayashi's last message, the newspaper said.

Kuribayashi reported the desperate conditions of his troops in the face of the better-equipped United States forces, who later took control of the strategically located Pacific island.

The message, which is widely known in Japan for its poetic expressions of self-sacrifice, redolent of the era of the samurai, says “arrows and bullets are exhausted” and “sorrow comes as I fall”.

Around 22 000 Japanese and 7 000 US soldiers died during the month-long battle in early 1945 for control of the island, which is seen as a key moment in the conflict.

The victory on Iwo Jima gave the US a vital strategic base from which it later launched attacks on mainland Japan. - Sapa-AFP