Raising the Flag

Karen Evans
Regular Contributor



                                                            Iwo Jima


Iwo Jima-Flag Raising.jpg


                                                             February 23, 1945

Five U.S. Marines and a Navy Corpsman raise the American flag  in the Battle of Iwo Jima


Regarded  as one of the most significant and recognizable images of WWII, three Marines

depicted in the photograph would be killed in action during the next few days.   The photo

was later used by Felix de Weldon to sculpt the Marine Corps War Memorial, dedicated in

1954, in honor and memory of all Marines who have given their lives 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 the others from photographs.


Iwo Jima-Mount Suribachi.jpg


                                                                    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 a 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.   Located between Japan and the Mariana Islands, a base

for American long-range bombers, Iwo Jima was used by the Japanese to alert the  homeland of

incoming American planes.  Following the capture of the island, America weakened the Japanese

early warning system and provided 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  against our forces - particularly on the landing beaches.  As a necessity, American

effort thus concentrated on isolating and capturing Suribachi, a goal achieved on February 23, 1945

with the raising of the American flag,  four days after the battle commenced.


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 March 26.  The 35-day assault would ultimately result in more than 26,000

American casualties, including 6,800 deaths.


                                            "Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue"





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