Three Flags

Since my dad fought at Iwo Jima, I did additional research about this WWII battle. Therefore, I will share what I discovered. It was a long time ago and you are wondering why it is on this page. It needs to be Remembered as well as Grace Church and other events and situation from our past. My article contains data that you will not see anywhere else.

The Washington Post recently talked about two flags at Iwo Jima. No, the truth is, there were Three Flags on that island and this is never told. That 3rd flag was actually the official flag raising and it was photographed by T Sgt James A Mundall. If I am able to add some knowledge here, it is to your benefit.

I did a great deal of research on that major conflict that took place during World War II. I discovered that there were more than one flag and the one in Washington DC and at the Iwo Jima Monument was really based on the second flag that went up. There were three different flags in fact. Of course, there were never more that one flying at the same time! The Post had the article nearly correct. Now the rest of the story is this. I researched and verified my information with Larry Kirby of Manchester, MA. Larry was in the 3rd Marine Div, same as my dad but could not remember him. Not many vets left from that conflict. Larry was still alive as of Feb, 2020.

Larry Kirby on Feb 19, 2020 Iwo Jima, 3rd Marine Div.

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 photograph that was taken by Joe Rosenthal was of the second flag that was hoisted on Mount Suribachi. My second discovery was that only five years ago, the correct names of those raising that flag became known for the first time. It has been many years since the battle of Iwo Jima during WW II yet the facts had not been fully known and were incorrect.

One thing I have done in my examination has been to identify the men who had raised the first flag and I have later discovered that there was a third flag also. I have the picture but not the identities of flag number three. Those who were first to erect the Flag number one are the following: Lt Harold G. Schrier, Sgt. Ernest Thomas and Sgt Oliver Hanson. Then wind came up so 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” had been written by his son James Bradley. I read his book and saw the movie too. That flag was 54″ x 28″ on the first one and it had been taken from the USS Missoula, a transport ship. The photographer was Louis Lowery for that picture.

As for flag number two, the one that gets all the glory, the men 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 larger flag and men. The flag was 96″ x 56″ in size and came from The LST-779 which was a tank transport ship. For many years Sgt Henry Hanson was thought to have been one of the flag raisers but was not one. Sadly, he also never had gotten to leave Iwo Jima alive as he had been killed by a sniper’s bullet.

Lt Harold G Schrier was the first man to reach the top of Suribachi and he was awarded the Navy Cross for his efforts and heroism. He led the first marines from the 28th regiment of the 5th marine division to reach the top of that mountain and not knowing what he would face when he got there.

The Japanese were led 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 division were a reserve unit since they had come from a fresh battle at Guam. Dad as part of a scout party, still went out early so he got to see more action. Luckily, he made it out alive. The marine casualties were high. Marine command said there were 17, 372 wounded 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 opposite beaches nearby. The 3rd Division went toward the airfields and their portion of wounded was 4438 and 1131 killed. The whole island was dangerous and there were many a hero.

The Japanese lost 19,977 men 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 finish. Kuribayashi had asked his men to make the ultimate sacrifices for the Emperor and the Japanese people.

Once flag number two was taken down, a third flag was hoisted near the end of the battle at the opposite part of the island known as Kitano Point. In the picture, it shows Mt Suribachi in the far distance. As the official flag raising photo, Lt Gen Holland M Smith commanding general of the expeditionary troops on Iwo Jima and Maj Gen Graves B Erskine of the 3rd Marine Div are shown with troops looking on. This photo received little attention. Nothing could compete with the prematurely hoisted flag on Mt Suribachi by Joe Rosenthal. So, you find info here that no one else has, strange as that may seem. A little more history that helps us to Remember it with a little more detail. Thanks for stopping by – John.

Closing In: Marines in the Seizure of Iwo Jima (The Bitter End)

There were two Marines that hoisted that final flag #3 but I have not been able to identify them yet.