On Feb. 23, 1945, four days after the initial assault on the island of Iwo Jima, Marines took control of the high ground and planted a flag atop Mt. Suribachi.
The flag raising didn’t signal the end of the fight on Iwo Jima. It did motivate the Marines and corpsmen still flushing out an entrenched enemy force.
Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams and Navajo Code Talker Thomas H. Begay recall what it was like to see the Stars and Stripes fly high over the island.
“It was the greatest feeling I ever had,” Begay said.
The island, 10 square miles in area, was a Japanese stronghold halfway between Saipan and Tokyo. The Iwo Jima assault started Feb. 19, 1945, with three Marine divisions and more than 80,000 men. Four days later, Marines took control of Mount Suribachi and raised the American flag. Joe Rosenthal’s iconic image capturing the flag raising is the model for the Marine Corps War Memorial and the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
The battle lasted 36 days, killing 5,931 Marines. Additionally, 209 Navy corpsmen and surgeons assigned to the Marines died, as well as Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen from other units. More than 110,000 Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen served, with more than 26,000 killed or wounded.