A Brief Look Back at Iwo Jima

My dad, Cpl Norman P Sprague, fought at Iwo Jima so I did an in depth look at everything that happened there. One thing that I discovered was that the iconic picture that was taken by Joe Rosenthal was of the next flag that was hoisted on Mount Suribachi. My second discovery was that only two years before that time, the correct names of those raising that flag became famous for the first time. It has been many years since the battle of Iwo Jima during WW II yet the truth had not been known exactly.

One thing I’ve done in my examination has been to identify the men who had raised the flag and I have afterwards discovered that there was at least a third flag also. I have the image but not the identities of flag number three. Then wind came up so that they needed help and they were then aided by Cpl Charles Lindberg, Pfc James Michels, Pfc Raymond Jacobs and Navy Corpsman John Bradley. “Flags of our Fathers” was written by his son James Bradley. I read his book and watched the movie also. This flag was 54″ x 28″ on the very first one and it had been taken from the USS Missoula, a transport ship. The photographer was Louis Lowery for that film.

As for flag number two, the one that gets all the glory, the guys are: Sgt Michael Strank, Cpl Hanlon H Block, Pfc Franklin R Sousley, Pfc Ira H Hayes, Pfc Rene A Gagnan and Harold Schultz.The Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Rosenthal for his perfect photo of the bigger flag and men. The flag was 96″ x 56″ in size and came from The LST-779 which was a tank transport ship. For several years Sgt Henry Hanson was believed to have been one of the flag raisers but was not one. Sadly, he never had gotten to leave Iwo Jima alive because he was killed by a sniper’s bullet .

He headed the first marines from the 28th regiment of the 5th marine division to get to the top of the mountain and not understanding what he would face when he got there.

The Japanese were headed by General Tadamichi Kuribayashi who had his men well hidden underground. There were 21,000 men hiding in 13,000 yards of tunnel with a thousand cave entrances. They were well prepared for the coming onslaught of our fighting marines. My dad was with the 3rd Marine Div. That had responsibility for the middle of the island. His branch were a reserve unit since they’d come from a brand new battle at Guam. Dad as a part of a scout party, nevertheless went out early so he must see more action. Fortunately, he made it out alive. Marine command said there were 17, 372 injured and 5,931 killed on Iwo Jima. The 4th Marine Div. Fought along the beaches and the quarry area while the 5th Marines concentrated on Mt Suribachi and the other beaches nearby. The 3rd Division went toward the airfields and their part of wounded was 4438 and 1131 murdered. The entire island was dangerous and there were lots of heros.

The Japanese lost 19,977 guys and there were 216 navy and 867 army members taken prisoner. One other discovery was that the Japanese had used Korean slaves to help fight to the end.

After that conflict, the next fight was at Okinawa and then there were bombing raids on the Japanese mainland. The Japanese formerly surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri boat after the atomic bomb droppings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had taken place.