February 23, 1945

February 23, 1945, Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima. A split second of the lives of five Marines and one Navy Corpsman are captured for eternity, and raise the  spirits of a war-weary nation.

The photo captures not only the ascendancy of the United States and the valor of the American warrior, but the ethos of the Marine as well, and is a microcosm of the Corps. The six individuals are melded into one form, one organism, exerting themselves to complete the mission. In the final moment of completing that mission they are anonymous individuals, no face clearly visible, only helmeted warriors in a brief moment of temporary victory in the larger, longer overall effort to win the battle. One battle, at that brief moment in time still long from being finished, in a long war that was also far from being finished.

Despite the illusion of final victory that the image presents, the bloody battle of Iwo Jima would rage for another four weeks, eventually taking the lives of three of the men.Three out of a total of 6,421 Americans, and nearly 23,000 Japanese, who would fall there.

While they are anonymous images in Joe Rosenthal’s iconic image, they were real, living men with families and loved ones at home to whom they were anything but anonymous.

The flag raisers are from left to right, front row, Private First Class Ira Hayes, Private First Class Franklin Sousley, Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class John Bradley, and Corporal Harlon Block. Left to right, second row, are Sergeant Michael Strank and Private First Class Rene Gagnon.

Sgt. Mike Strank, was born 1919 in Jarabenia, Czechoslovakia, KIA February 29, 1945, Iwo Jima.

Cpl. Harlon Block, was born 1924 in Yorktown, Texas, KIA February 29, 1945, Iwo Jima.

PFC. Franklin Sousley, was born 1925 in Hilltop Kentucky, KIA March 21, 1945 Iwo Jima.

PFC. Ira Hayes, was born 1923 in Sacaton, Arizona, died January 24, 1955, Bapchule, Arizona.

PFC Rene Gagnon, was born 1925 in Manchester, New Hampshire, died October 12, 1979, Manchester, New Hampshire.

PM2 John Bradley, was born 1923 in Antigo, Washington, WIA Iwo Jima, died January 11, 1994, Antigo, Wisconsin.

They have all left us now, but their sacrifice is immortal. It will remain to inspire future generations to greatness for as long as the flag they raised 66 years ago continues to fly free.

12 comments

  1. 1

    Thanks for posting this Crunch, that photo still leaves me short of breath. What an incredible legacy………

    Question for you, are those jump wings on Cpl Block’s jacket?

  2. 2
    M167A1 growls and barks:

    Response to Jaybear, Colonel of Imperial Ancient Artillery @:

    Re: Cpl Block.
    The Jump Wings were designed in 1941 I would guess that He trained with the 503rd or 11ABN in the Philipines before hitting Iwo. Or perhaps he belonged to one of the short lived Marine parachute BNs.

    Other than that well done Marines… do try to remember that the “toilet” a Latrine and not a Head.

  3. 3
    M167A1 growls and barks:

    Response to Jaybear, Colonel of Imperial Ancient Artillery @:

    SHould have done this first.

    I goodgled his name and came up with this

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramarine

  4. 4

    M167A1 says:

    I goodgled his name and came up with this
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramarine

    from what the article says, Ira Hayes was a ParaMarine too……

    very interesting, I learned something today.

  5. 5
    LC PrimEviL growls and barks:

    Nice post, Crunchie.

    Here’s some short bios of the Flag-Raisers.

    The Ballad of Ira Hayes, sung by Johnny Cash, here.

  6. 6
    Lizard, G.L.O.R. growls and barks:

    Thanks Crunch :em04:

  7. 7

    Thanks for posting the uncropped image,, those shattered stumps say a lot too.

  8. 8

    How many of you know who Kerr Eby is?

    He was a Canadian artist who went in with the Marines in most of their bloodiest battles. He drew them in action with pencil and charcoal and his depictions of the Marines in action are masterpieces of combat/military art.

    Here is a link to some of his work, take the time to view his magnificent tribute to the Marines of World War II

  9. 9
    Tallulah growls and barks:

    Texan, Kentuckian, New Hampshire yank, Czechoslovakian, Washingtonian, and Arizonan.

    All American, and God blessed them already, so we don’t even have to ask…

    Thanks for the link to Kerr Eby’s wonderful artworks, Jaybear. Simply marvelous, full of feeling.

  10. 10
    redc1c4 growls and barks:

    “To Absent Comrades.”

    may we always be worthy of the title “comrades” to such as them.

    :em04:

  11. 11
    LC BOATS growls and barks:

    I recently finished reading Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley who was a son of PM2 John Bradly. An excellent book that relates the story of these great heroes from childhood to their deaths. When I hear the word hero mentioned these are the men that come to mind. :em04:

  12. 12
    LC Xystus growls and barks:

    I’d be negligent not to remind the Empire that the famous photo shows the second flag raising; the original flag (from the USS Missoula IIRC) was smaller, but it’s the one that drew a massive wave of cheers. Among the crew who lofted it on a scavenged water pipe was a Marine with a flamethrower & the familiar name of Charles Lindbergh (no relation, I guess) from the Grand Forks area. Seems his family used to vacation in my hometown. He lived obscurely in a Minneapolis suburb & survived long enough to see the statue my town dedicated to him a few years ago (a little local promotion there).