On 23 February 1945, six Marines, with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Division, raised our American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The flag on the 546-foot dormant volcanic cone at the southern tip of the island, could be seen for a great distance, and was an inspiration for our Marines and Sailors. Three of the six Marines pictured, Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon Block, and Private First Class Franklin Sousley, were killed in action before the battle concluded on 26 March.
There were 6,871 Americans killed and 19,217 wounded on Iwo Jima. The Medal of Honor was awarded to 22 Marines and five Sailors, 14 of them posthumously (13 Marines, one Sailor). Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, noted of the Americans on Iwo, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.”
Joe Rosenthal’s iconic image was of the second flag raised that day, a 96-by-56–inch flag to replace the 54-by-28-inch flag, and that image was the inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial outside the Ord-Weitzel Gate to Arlington National Cemetery. Both flags can now be seen in the National Museum of the Marine Corps near Marine Corp Base, Quantico.
The major conflicts against 20th century tyrants cost 616,124 American lives and 1,120,283 wounded, in bloody theaters of warfare – one battle at a time. Too many Americans now have no concept of the price of Liberty bequeathed to them – the price of freedom many arrogantly squander today. Ignorance is bliss – until it is not… In 1940, Winston Churchill observed, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” Indeed.