67 years ago today, it didn’t seem much impeded the Marines from raising a U.S. flag atop Mt. Suribachi except the wind. No Japanese are seen, and nearby Marines watched the Stars & Stripes go up without cover on the highest point of Iwo Jima. It could be interpreted as the final act of the battle.
The iconic photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal is the reason we remember the battle. It’s possibly the most reproduced photo of all time, and the moment will live forever in bronze as the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. But the flag went up on the fifth day, and it didn’t end until March 26. By then, 6,821 American troops were dead, and nearly 20,000 wounded. Almost a third of all Marine Corps casualties in World War II were killed on the volcanic sands of bloody Iwo.
The image we all carry should remind us all of the tremendous sacrifice of the Marines and Navy Corpsmen in that battle, and not just the single moment of triumph captured. That reminder is especially poignant today, as Americans awoke to news of seven Marines killed in a helicopter crash during a training exercise in Arizona. Even at home, the military can be a dangerous business to undertake.
For a brief moment on Mt. Suribachi in February 1945, Marines enjoyed a respite from the brutal fighting that had gone on for nearly a week. After the photo seen ‘round the world was taken, the eleven men who raised the famous flag and another one got back into the war. Only five left the island alive. That’s something no photo could ever capture.