War: Flag(s), Raised

Wrong Guy, But It Doesn’t Matter

Joe Rosenthal

Joe Rosenthal

The U.S. Marine Corps this week announced that the identification of John Bradley, a heretofore Iwo Jima flag raiser was incorrect and that the actual soldier was Private First Class Harold Schultz.

The date was February 23, 1945, and the Marines were engaged in a desperate, foot by foot ferocious fight to drive the Japanese from Iwo Jima, a volcanic island near the Japanese coast.

Rosenthal’s “capture” of the flag swinging into position is fraught with our collective perceptions about war, courage, sacrifice and battle.

The upward arcing display represented visual evidence, and a large morale boost for the troops, of the tactical achievement of controlling the summit of the mountain.

The raising was but five days into a titanic effort moving from south to north up the island that would last another month and during which 6,800 marines would be killed.

In fact, three of the Suribachi/Rosenthal flag raisers were killed in action.

There was an earlier flag raising atop Suribachi conducted by Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines.

Their names are known but they have (perhaps fortunately) escaped the scrutiny of history.

One suspects that they know what they did and that is plenty good enough, a sentiment the world now seems to lack, entirely.

Now, it seems to only matter if everyone knows.

The flag raisers and our intense devotion to them utterly belies the far greater message later memorialized by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz:

“Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

In fact, the Iwo Jima Memorial, an out-sized and epic depiction of their effort, is dedicated:

“To the Marines and all who fought with them”

As humbling and classy a statement as you are ever likely to hear or read.

 

 

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