Raising Old Glory: The Photograph that Became an Enduring Symbol of Freedom
Feb 22, 2017
The history of the United States of America is both complicated and awe inspiring. There are times in American history that have caused deep turmoil for people. There are times in the history of the Republic when the underdog has succeeded. America has also seen times of prosperity that allowed for growth and innovation. These moments are the collective history of the American people. Through the good moments and the not so good, America never stopped being the land of the free and the home of the brave. It just expanded. The ideals took root.
There have been unforgettable national moments like watching John Glenn being launched into space, or when Martin Luther King, Jr. marched to Montgomery. The nation has been captivated by such images as Gloria Steinem leading protests for women’s rights and seeing the flag being raised on Mount Suribachi. These moments have created a lasting impact for all Americans. These were the moments where the true ideals of America came to life. This is a country of, by and for the people.
This country has also weathered storms and experienced heartache. Slaves were bought, sold and made to till the hard Earth. They feared the lash of the whip and the weight of the chains. Women in America have long battled the forces of sexism and were not inherently given the right to vote. Today, the fight for the American way of life stares down the barrel at terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.
In the past, America faced far different enemies starting with a king who felt taxation was a solution to his country’s problems. There have been dictators and military leaders who questioned the rights of people. Or even the charismatically dangerous, political prisoner from Germany who threatened to wipe an entire race from the face of the Earth. These enemies swore to take total control and every time, the United States of America was there to put an end to it.
The fight of the second World War, called a generation of men to arms and a generation of women to work. This fight was for more than the American way of life. It was a war that dealt with basic fundamental human rights and the dignity of those that acted or believed differently.
Out of each of the moments previously mentioned there was a symbolic image, video clip, saying, etc. that struck a cord in the heart of every American. The greatest symbol of World War II was the moment when six Marines raised the flag on Mount Suribachi. This article is dedicated to the honor and sacrifice of those men during the Battle of Iwo Jima. It is also to honor the 72nd Anniversary of the flag raising.
The Battle of Iwo Jima is perhaps best known as one of the most brutal battles in the Pacific theater during the war. The Allied forces saw Iwo Jima as a perfect place to assemble for any attack on the mainland of Japan. The island had great vantage points as well as air strips. Marines from 3rd Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment of the 5th Division began the assault for the island and for five weeks, endured heavy gunfire from the Japanese soldiers.
The opposing forces were holding strong underground in tunnels underneath the volcano on the island. The Marines on the other hand felt it would be more proactive to take the tallest peak of the island, Mount Suribachi. About 40 men were given orders to take the peak if they could.
The lieutenant colonel handed the commanding officer a flag and told him to put it up if they made it to the top. While there was nearby enemy gunfire, the ascent of these Marines was success because of their persistence. At first, this flag had been raised once the Marines had reached the crest but this flag is not the same one in the iconic photograph; however, the stars and stripes became the first foreign flag to fly on Japanese territory.
The flag in the photograph taken by famed Associated Press photojournalist Joe Rosenthal, is actually the second flag to fly atop Mount Suribachi. The first flag was to be taken down in order to be used a souvenir pieces of the occupation and a larger flag would hang in its place. It was at that moment that Mr. Rosenthal accompanied a small group of Marines to the top and captured the image seen around the world. There has been some confusion over the years as to the identities of those actually raising the flag in the photograph. The misidentified man is John “Doc” Bradley who served as Navy corpsman and was present during the first flag raising. The United States Marine Corps has acknowledged that Marine Private 1st Class Harold Schultz, who died in 1995, was present during the second flag raising captured in the iconic Rosenthal photograph. The story of this iconic American moment can be seen in the film Flags of Our Fathers based off the best-selling book written by the son of “Doc” Bradley. The Marines who raised the flag from left to right are:
- Marine Private 1st Class Ira Hayes
- Marine Private 1st Class Harold Schultz
- Marine Sgt. Michael Strank
- Marine Private 1st Class Rene Gagnon
- Marine Private 1st Class Franklin Sousley
- Marine Cpl. Harlon Block
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