"Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue." - Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, U.S. Navy, 16 March 1945
Sixty-five years ago today, one of the last major battles of the Second World War began when the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions began landing on the black volcanic sand of Iwo Jima. The landing, in contrast to the coming battle, was eerily unopposed.
But that didn't last long. After the shooting started, it took 34 days for Marines to clear the tiny island.
Just about everyone know the Joe Rosenthal photo of the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, that inspired the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington. Since the actual photo of the flag raising belongs to The Associated Press, here's one of the memorial I shot last year during the Sunset Parade.
But did you know, this famous picture was of the second flag raising? Yep, the first flag to go up was too small, and the battalion commander who sent the flag up the hill wanted it for his battalion. So they did it again.
Here's the picture of the first flag raising shot by Marine Corps photographer Staff Sgt. Louis Lowery.
While the Rosenthal photo is inspiring, I've always liked this picture as well. It's a little more ... gritty. It shows Marines as they were then and are to this day. I should point out, in case you're interested, both flags now reside at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico and are displayed on a rotating basis.
When the Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal saw the flag as he landed on the black sand beach, he said to the Gen. Holland "Howlin' Mad" Smith, "Holland, the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years."
We can only hope so.