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Raising of the Flag at Iwo Jima in WWII

The raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima stands as one of the most iconic and enduring images of American valor and unity during World War II. The event was immortalized in the famous photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The battle, a pivotal engagement between American forces and the Japanese Empire, aimed to capture the strategically significant island of Iwo Jima, which would provide a crucial base for further air strikes and operations in the Pacific.


The photograph captures the moment when five United States Marines and a Navy corpsman raised the American flag atop Mount Suribachi, a dormant volcano and the highest point on the island. The image became a symbol of triumph, sacrifice, and the unwavering spirit of the American military. The Marines involved in the flag raising were Corporal Harlon Block, Private First Class Franklin Sousley, Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Ira Hayes, Private First Class Rene Gagnon, and Pharmacist's Mate Second Class John Bradley.


Harlon Block, born on November 6, 1924, in Texas, was a Marine rifleman. Franklin Sousley, born on September 19, 1925, in Kentucky, served as a machine gunner. Michael Strank, born on November 10, 1919, in Czechoslovakia, was a sergeant and squad leader. Ira Hayes, born on January 12, 1923, in Arizona, was a Pima Native American and a Marine rifleman. Rene Gagnon, born on March 7, 1925, in New Hampshire, was a Marine messenger. John Bradley, born on July 10, 1923, in Wisconsin, was a Navy corpsman who provided medical aid during the battle.


Tragically, three of the six men involved in the flag raising—Harlon Block, Franklin Sousley, and Michael Strank—lost their lives during the ongoing battle. The photograph captured a moment of victory amid intense combat, becoming a symbol of the sacrifice and bravery exhibited by all American troops during the Battle of Iwo Jima.


The flag raising photographed by Rosenthal was the second one that day. The first flag, raised shortly after the initial capture of the summit, was deemed too small and was replaced with a larger number flag. The second flag, the one captured in the iconic photograph, was larger and more visible from a distance. Both flags were brought back to the United States as mementos of the battle. Currently, these flags are preserved at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia. 


For those seeking to delve further into the history of the Battle of Iwo Jima and the flag raising, numerous resources are available. Books like "Flags of Our Fathers" by James Bradley and Ron Powers offer a detailed account of the events and the lives of the men involved. The National World War II Museum provides a comprehensive exploration of the battle's history and significance. The United States Marine Corps History Division also offers a wealth of resources for research on the battle and its participants.

Additional Resources:



United States Marines


Investigation IWO - The Flag Raising in Myth, Memory, & Esprit de Corps


The Story Behind the Two Flag Raising at the Battle of Iwo Jima




Jose Rosenthal and the Flag Raising on Iwo Jima

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