November 18, 2006

Positivity: The Two Flags of Iwo Jima

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 6:54 am

In a year where Iwo Jima is has been memorialized on film, it is quite appropriate to look at the story behind “the two flags” (the excerpt here is a small portion of the entire report; go to the link to read the whole thing and to see some great photos):

10/30/06 – Posted from the Daily Record newsroom
Remembering a forgotten flag-raising on Iwo Jima
Morris vets give new film salute, recall cheering from first event that came before famous photo


Greeley Wells carried the first flag flown over Iwo Jima in a small safe. He drove it in a Jeep across the battlefield and finally onto a ship heading to safety. He has told the story many times over the years — how he held a piece of history, the real flag from Iwo Jima.

It just wasn’t the famous flag.

Wells saw the movie “Flags of Our Fathers”last week and came away saying it got the battle scenes right — the mess on the beach, the ferocity of the fighting. He said he saw himself in a photo shown during the credits.

The movie depicts the story that he has been telling for 61 years — the story of the two flags. The first flag was raised over Mount Suribachi four days into the battle, and everyone cheered. Then a second flag replaced it, becoming famous because an Associated Press photographer happened to take a picture as it was raised.

Most men on Iwo Jima didn’t realize, at first, that a second, larger flag had been raised.

“Nobody seemed to notice that the flag’s getting bigger,” said Wells, 86, a former Harding mayor who now lives in Seattle, and a Marine lieutenant during the battle of Iwo Jima.

The film explores how the image of the second flag-raising, made famous by Joe Rosenthal’s photo, was used as a symbol of victory for selling war bonds to an American public tired of war while the men who raised the first flag largely were forgotten. It also explores the real heroism of people who sacrificed for their country, who fought and died on Iwo Jima during one of the fiercest battles ever.

Sixty-one years after that battle, which began on Feb 19, 1945, Iwo Jima veterans are mostly in their 80s. They were on the beach, or aboard ships just offshore, or engaged in battle at the airport when 40 men climbed to the top of the mountain, encountering little resistance, and raised a flag that Wells had been carrying in a map case. Wherever they were, veterans remember the sounds that followed the flag-raising — men cheering all over the island and ships’ horns blasting.

(continued at link)


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