Capturing Valor

Iwo Jima

Raising the First Flag on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima Left to right: 1st Lt. Harold Schrier[7] (crouched behind radioman's legs), Pfc. Raymond Jacobs (radioman reassigned from F Company), Sgt. Henry "Hank" Hansen (cloth cap, securing flag pipe with left hand), Platoon Sgt. Ernest "Boots" Thomas (seated), Pvt. Phil Ward (helmeted, securing flag pipe with both hands), PhM2c John Bradley, USN (helmeted, securing the flag pipe with right hand, standing above Ward), Pfc. James Michels (holding M1 Carbine), and Cpl. Charles W. Lindberg (standing above Michels). Photo by by SSgt. Louis R. Lowery, USMC

Raising the First Flag on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima
Photo by SSgt. Louis R. Lowery, USMC

February 23, 1945

Five U.S. Marines and a Navy Corpsman Raise the American Flag

 

Mount Suribachi The dominant geographical feature of the island of Iwo Jima U.S. Navy Photo

Mount Suribachi
The dominant geographical feature of the island of Iwo Jima
U.S. Navy Photo

On February 19, 1945, the United States invaded Iwo Jima as part of  its strategy to defeat Japan.  Although not originally a target, the relatively swift fall of the Philippines provided a tactical opportunity prior  to the planned invasion of Okinawa.   Iwo Jima, used by the Japanese to alert the  homeland of incoming American planes, was located  between Japan and the Mariana Islands, a base used for long-range American bombers.  Following capture of the island, America would weaken the Japanese early warning system and provide an emergency landing strip for damaged bombers.

A volcanic  island,  Iwo Jima was heavily fortified and the invading U.S. Marines suffered high casualties.   The elevation of Mount Suribachi’s 546-foot dormant cone was a tremendous artillery vantage  point for the Japanese  in underground bunkers and pill boxes  against our forces – particularly its landing beaches.  As a necessity, American effort concentrated on isolating and capturing Suribachi, a goal achieved on February 23, 1945 with the raising of the American flag just four days following the commencement of battle.  A larger second flag would soon replace the former and  three Marines depicted in the flag raising would be killed in action over the next few days.

As the first Japanese homeland soil  secured  by Americans, it had been a matter of honor for the Japanese to prevent its capture.  Despite  our success in reaching Suribachi, the battle continued to rage for 31 days until the 26th of March.  The 35-day assault would ultimately result in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 deaths. 

The flags from the first and second flag-raisings are conserved in the National Museum of the Marine Corps. second flag, pictured here, was damaged by the high winds at the peak of Suribachi (American flags during World War II had 48 stars, since Alaska and Hawaii were not yet U.S. states). Photo: Creative Commoms

The first and second flag raisings are conserved in the National Museum of Marine Corps.
The second flag, pictured here, was damaged by high winds at the peak of Suribachi
(American flags during World War II had 48 stars, as Alaska and Hawaii were not yet U.S. states).
Photo: Creative Commons

A National Monument

Marine Corps War Memorial Arlington, Virginia

Marine Corps War Memorial
Arlington, Virginia

Regarded  as one of the most significant and recognizable images of WWII, the photo by Joe Rosenthal for the Associated Press, depicting marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima,  was later used by Felix de Weldon to sculpt the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.  Dedicated in 1954, the monument honors the memory of all Marines who have given their lives in service for their country.

Commissioned to design the memorial in 1951, it would take three years and hundreds of assistants to complete the iconic image.  The flag-raising survivors would pose for de Weldon who would then sculpt from photographs the marines killed in action.

——————-

A Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima

“Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue”

About Karen Evans

Advocate For Honoring Military Service
This entry was posted in American History, Veterans and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Capturing Valor

  1. Heartfelt memory on this Memorial Day weekend.

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