By David Knopf
1st Lt. Harold Schreier, a World War II veteran from the Camden-Fleming area of Ray County, was honored for his important “first” during the decisive battle for Iwo Jima.
But Schreier, a Marine, never got the attention he might have for coming in second.
A career military man who’s no longer living, Schreier was awarded the Navy Cross for raising the first U.S. flag on Japanese soil. He led a 40-man patrol up the side of Mt. Suribachi to place a 54-by-28-inch flag at the summit, only to then engage in a brief firefight with enemy troops who emerged from caves in the volcanic mountain.
The action came on Feb. 23, 1945 under orders from Marine Capt. Dave E. Severance, the commander of Easy Company. But the idea had been that of Col. Chandler Johnson, who passed along a relatively small flag brought ashore from the USS Missoula.
According to historical reports, Johnson wanted men on the beach and on nearby Naval ships to know the mountain had been taken after a long fight with dug-in Japanese soldiers. Raising a flag was a way to do it.
Staff Sgt. Louis R. Lowery, a photographer, was with the patrol and took a photo for Leatherneck Magazine. Pictured were Schreier, the Ray County man, two sergeants, a corporal and two privates planting the flag atop a scavenged piece of Japanese pipe.
His Navy Cross citation put it this way: “Although still under enemy sniper fire, First Lieutenant Schreier, assisted by his Platoon Sergeant, raised the National Colors over Mount Suribachi, planting the flagstaff firmly on the highest knoll overlooking the crater, the first American flag to fly over any land in the inner defenses of the Japanese Empire.”
It was a sweet moment for the men on Iwo Jima and those offshore who’d been engaged for several days in bitter fighting with the Japanese. The battle would continue another 90 days.
The complete story is in the Monday, Jan. 2, 2012 Richmond News.