The exact circumstances of Kuribayashi's death remain mysterious. He was most likely killed in action on the early morning of March 26, 1945, while leading his surviving soldiers in a three-pronged assault against sleeping Marines and Air Force ground crews. Kuribayashi and his men silently slashed tents, bayoneted sleeping men, and lobbed hand grenades. The assault climaxed in a hand to hand battle to the death between the men of both armies. The General's body could not be identified afterwards for he had removed all officer's insignia in order to fight as a regular soldier. According to less credible theories, Kuribayashi is alleged to have committed seppuku
The name of Gen. Kuribayashi has been accorded a place of honor in postwar Japanese history, alongside that other outstanding commander Adm. Yamamoto. In his autobiography, Coral and Brass, Lt.-Gen. Holland 'Howling Mad' Smith paid him one of his highest tributes: 'Of all our adversaries in the Pacific, Kuribayashi was the most redoubtable.