Thursday, February 19, 2009

Two flags for our fathers

I was going to write a TMI today, until I got to the “This Day in History” section at the bottom of my online NYT. It sent my thoughts in another direction.

Does anyone recognize this picture shot by Lou Lowery:

What about this one by Bob Campbell:

No? I didn’t think so. These two pictures are not nearly as famous as this one, taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal:

Yeah, I figured that one might be familiar. It was taken about a half second before Campbell's photo above it and from a slightly different angle.

As famous as Rosenthal’s photo of the flag going up on Mount Suribachi is, it is important to remember Rosenthal passed Lowery as Lowery was going down the mountain after taking his picture. This in no way lessens the historical impact of Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning picture. It’s an amazing picture (and one of the most reproduced photographs in history) and is an icon of the Marine Corps.

“(T)he raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years” – Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, after witnessing the first flag raised on Mount Suribachi

Three of the Marines in Rosenthal’s picture – Franklin Sousley, Harlon Block, and Michael Strank – were killed in action on Iwo Jima. The other three men – Marines Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes, and Navy corpsman (medic) John Bradley – survived the battle and returned home. In the picture they are, from left to right: Hayes, Sousley, Strank, Bradley, Gagnon and Block.

In the end, though, Lowery worked for Leatherneck Magazine and Rosenthal for the AP and it was his picture that filled the front pages of American newspapers within days. Not only is history written by the winners, it’s often difficult to change the history that is written first.

(Speaking of history, if anyone’s interested, both flags now call the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico home. They’re displayed on a rotating basis to protect them from the ravages of time.)

Facts about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Today is not the anniversary of the Suribachi flag raising – that comes next week on Feb. 24. But it was 64 years ago today when U.S. Marines first stormed the eerily quiet beaches of Iwo Jima. They didn’t stay that way for long and battle for the island raged for the next 35 days.

During those 35 days, 110,000 Americans (mostly Marines) battled more than 22,000 Japanese soldiers for control of the 8 square mile island. Arlington County, the smallest county in the United States, has an area of 26 square miles.

When the battle ended, 21,703 of the Japanese soldiers had been killed and 1,083 were captured. The 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions lost 6,821 killed and 19,189 wounded.


Zipcode said...

The Marine Corps Musuem is incredible, I spent a good day in there.

Great post!

LiLu said...

I can certainly forgive a lack of TMI in honor of this. Lovely, my darling.

FoggyDew said...

Zip - The museum is both beautiful to the eye and moving to the soul. I've been twice: the first time with my old gunnery sergeant while he was in town for a visit, and last year with my dad.

LiLu - Thanks for understanding. Don't worry, I gots one for next week.

Shannon said...

Drive me to the museum and I'll treat you to ameal at the appalling Woodbridge chain restaurant of your choice. Except Outback, the concept insults my heritage.

JoLee said...

Your intelligence shines through in this post. Well done, Foggy.

FoggyDew said...

Shannon - Done and done (although they do make a pretty good steak). How about the Silver Diner? Never been there.

JoLee - Thank you very much.