W. Thomas Smith Jr. emails:
Dear family and friends,
Sixty-two years ago today, AP photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped a photo of five U.S. Marines and one Navy Corpsman raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.
The 37-day Battle for Iwo (February-March 1945) was only in its fourth day when the six Americans raised the colors.
As the flag went up, thousands of Marines and sailors across the island began cheering, as did sailors witnessing the event offshore. Ships’ horns and whistles began blowing. From the main deck of USS Eldorado, a beaming Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal turned to Marine General Holland M. ‘Howlin’ Mad’ Smith and exclaimed, “Holland, the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.”
Rosenthal’s picture, which would become the most famous combat image of the war, ultimately won a Pulitzer.
Here it is [link]
Three of the six men who raised the flag would soon be among the nearly 7,000 Americans killed during the battle.
An unbroken line of those Marines on Iwo has continued: Survivors of the battle returned home to train new Marines. The newly trained Marines trained the next generation, then that generation trained the next, then the next, and so on.
Today, the descendents of those Marines who fought and died on Iwo Jima – having gone through the same boot camps at Parris Island and San Diego and wearing the same eagle, globe, and anchor – are now fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other corners (some unknown) of the world in the war on terror.