One more into memory and history
I know you've all seen the photograph. Black and white. Taken in an instant on a place called Sulphur Island as the camera was swung around and the shutter clicked. Nothing amazing. The subjects were there because thievery was feared. And trophy hunting the norm. The real excitement had already happened and they were making sure there was no taking of souvenirs. The photographer was so unimpressed he nearly didn't make the trip. As it was, he decided to take the climb. And clicked his shutter and in that unplanned instant took the most recognizable photograph of WWII. The second flag raising on Iwo Jima by five Marines and one Navy Corpsman.
Joe Rosenthal , the photographer of that immortal photograph, passed away on Saturday.
The first flag had gone up on the top of Mount Surabachi. All across the island and onboard ship Marines and sailors all shouted and whooped as the ships off the beach all blew their horns. This was the first flag raised on Japanese territory. And an astute officer sent a second group up to replace that flag as he knew some enterprising Marine was going to borrow it for a few decades to display in a modest setting somewhere back in the United States. The officer also wanted a larger flag to be more easily seen. So, the five Marines and the Navy Corpsman trudged up the mountain with the "replacement flag" as they called it. A flag that had been recovered from a ship sunk at Pearl Harbor. Joe Rosenthal had missed the first flag raising and didn't see much worth in going on a long hike to perhaps photograph a non-event, but decided to go anyhow. And as those six men were preparing to raise a replacement flag, someone said "there it goes" and Joe Rosenthal ,in an instant , swung his camera in the general direction and made history for himself and six faceless men on an extinct volcano on an outpost of hell where three of those men would not live to get off the island.
The surviving three, who were taken out of combat, have now also passed away, the last being the Navy Corpsman, John "Doc" Bradley in 1994. I know as much about the second flag raising as I do because of a book written by Doc Bradley's son called "Flags of Our Fathers" My brother bought the book for me after seeing both the original and replacement flag side by side in Washington, D.C. The book is worth the read.
But, not to end a downer note, there is one flag raiser still alive. His name is Chuck Lindberg. And he lives here in Minnesota. He is one of the original flag raisers.
Here is a picture of the original flag raising. Chuck Lindberg is just behind the man in the foreground with the M-1 carbine.
And here is a picture showing both flags in the same frame. The replacement has just been raised in the background.(all images from IwoJima.com )
And here is Joe Rosenthal's uncropped picture:
And now, Mr. Rosenthal, like so many WWII veterans, has passed from living history to memory.