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Battle for Iwo Jima: Old Glory Raised Atop Mount Suribachi


Five days after setting foot on the black volcanic sands of Iwo Jima, the Marines had battled their way atop 556 foot Mount Suribachi. On Friday, February 23, 1945, a 40-man combat patrol from the 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, under 1st Lt. Harold G. Schrier became the first American patrol to reach Suribachi’s summit, which was Iwo Jima’s highest peak. Before ascending to the top, Schrier had been handed an American flag from his battalion’s adjutant. He was told, “If you get to the top, put it up.” At around 10:30 a.m., Schrier and two other Marines did just that, tying the flag to a Japanese water pipe and raising Old Glory atop Mount Suribachi. The unforgettable moment was photographed by Staff Sgt. Louis R. Lowery.

The first flag raising on Iwo Jima by Staff Sgt. Louis R. Lowery. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

For those who witnessed the Stars and Stripes soaring high above the battle-scarred island, it was a moment of indescribable triumph and pride. “We watched them go up the mountain and raise the flag,” recalled U.S. Navy veteran Tom Price. “There were hundreds of ships and everyone blew their sirens and horns.” Marines on the ground cheered wildly and fired their guns in celebration. Unwilling to allow the Americans to bask in this glory, the Japanese launched a counterattack, but the Devil Dogs met the challenge head-on and beat them back.

Several hours later, a larger American flag was raised atop Mount Suribachi while the original was carefully lowered down. The second flag was raised by five Marines and one Navy Corpsman: Cpl. Harlon Block, Navy Pharmacist’s Mate John Bradley, Cpl. Rene Gagnon, PFC Franklin Sousley, Sgt. Michael Strank, and Cpl. Ira Hayes. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal took three photographs atop Suribachi and his snapshot of these six men raising the second American flag became one of the most iconic images of World War II. As the fight for Iwo Jima raged on, Strank, Sousley, and Block were all killed before the island was declared secure on Monday, March 26, 1945.

The second flag raising on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Thanks to the work of Lowery, Rosenthal, and several other combat photographers who captured the action atop Mount Suribachi on film, the images of that historic day will live on forever, serving as eternal testaments to the bravery and fighting spirit of the warriors who fought and bled on Iwo Jima.

Sources

History.com: U.S. Flag Raised on Iwo Jima.

Live Science: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.

National Museum of the Marine Corps: 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The National WWII Museum: The Battle for Iwo Jima.

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