On Mount Suribachi…

sixty years ago today, five Marines and a Navy corpsman raised the American flag after five days of horrendous combat (with another month to come) on Iwo Jima. The unforgettable photograph below by Joe Rosenthal captured the moment.
raisingtheflag.jpg
Three of the six in the photo were killed in combat before the end of the battle for Iwo. Of the three survivors, only one — Navy corpsman John Bradley — lived out a happy life, and he refused to discuss the battle. His family didn’t even know he had fought in it. When he died, however, Bradley’s family found three boxes of documents and memorabilia that documented his story, now reconstructed by his son James (with Ron Powers) and told in the book Flags of our Fathers. (Thanks to reader Mike Daley for drawing my attention to it.) Over the weekend the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a brief article on the six by Bill Hendrick: “The strands of Iwo Jima.”
Marines bore the brunt of the battle for Iwo Jima. Nearly 20,000 Marines were wounded and nearly 7,000 were killed taking the island so it could be used as an emergency landing base for B-29s bombing Japan. The Medal of Honor was awarded to 27 men — more than in any other battle. Chris Vaughn’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram article from this past weekend has a good summary of the battle: “Remembering heroes, agony of Iwo Jima.” Brian Melley’s AP story on the initial flag raising on Iwo Jima tells a story with which I was unfamiliar: “Veteran wants recognition for role at flag raising.”
CORRECTION: Several readers have kindly written to point out that I misstated the lack of knowledge of John Bradley’s family with respect to his role in the Iwo Jima flag raising. The family was aware of his role in the flag raising; as James Bradley explains in the introduction to Flags of Our Fathers, at Mr. Bradley’s direction family members frequently deflected press inquiries for their father with respect to the flag raising with the statement that he was away fishing. The family was unaware until after Mr. Bradley’s death that he had been awarded the Navy Cross for bravery in combat during the campaign. (I just read the introduction over the past weekend and thought I could trust my memory to write without double checking this morning. Wrong.)

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