By Linda Emley
Joe Rosenthal’s picture of the flag raising at Iwo Jima won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for photography. It’s the only photo to win the same year it was
published and is considered by many to be the most reproduced photograph ever.
It also served as a model for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Located near Arlington National Cemetery, the sculpture is very impressive and is one of my favorite sights to see in D.C. after dark. There is no way you can see it and not feel a rush of patriotism.
Three of the six men in this picture died in battle on Iwo Jima. The three survivors were brought back to the states and went on tour to promote U.S. War Bonds. Frank Sousley, Harlon Block and Michael Strank died. John Bradley, Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes were the three survivors.
The first flag-raising on Iwo Jima, the one with local significance to Richmond, took place around 10:20 a.m. the same day the famous picture was taken. There is some confusion about who was actually in the first picture. The only person believed to be in both pictures was John Bradley.
We know Harold Schreier, of Richmond, and James Michaels, Charles Lindberg, Earnest “Boots” Thomas, Henry Hansen and James Roberson were also in the first picture.
There has been some discussion if Gene Marshall or Raymond Jacobs was the radioman in the picture, but both men were there. Raymond Jacobs died Jan. 29, 2008 and it’s claimed that he was the last surviving solider from the Iwo Jima picture.
On the home front, more of Harold Schreier’s story was told in the Richmond Missourian June 25, 1945. “According to an Associated Press release in the Kansas City Times Saturday, two of the nation’s highest military decorations, the Navy Cross and the Silver Star medal, have been awarded to Lt. Harold G. Schreier, 29 years old, of the Marine Corps. Lt. Schreier directed the raising of the first flag American flag on Iwo Jima and later rallied his men to hurl back an enemy banzai attack.”
Harold had already won the Legion Merit on Guadalcanal, three purple hearts, and three letters of commendation. He was a member of the famed 4th Marine regiment in China. The Legion of Merit was awarded for stealing ashore in an enemy-infested area in the Solomon Islands nine days before the landing to gather information on Japanese gun positions and remaining to signal approaching ships and guide the assault troops ashore.
Harold Schreier was a “lifer” and retired from the Marine Corps as a lieutenant colonel. He lived in Florida after retirement and died Jun 3, 1971. If you would like to see pictures of Harold and read more about his military career, you can visit the WW II room at the Ray County Museum.
I found another local connection to the flag-raising on Iwo Jima in the Richmond Missourian April 30, 1945. “Son’s Memorial Was Conducted at the Father’s Funeral. An extremely sad and most unusual situation prevailed at the funeral in Cowgill last Saturday of D.B. Ballew. Daniel Bescom Ballew, son of George and Sahara (Ball) Ballew was born in Ray County, March 28, 1868 and passed away at his home in Cowgill, April 19, 1945.
“On Nov. 17, 1908 he was united in marriage to Susie Hollingsworth and to this union were born five sons and four daughters. Two sons, J.D., who died in infancy, and D.B., who preceded him in death. William Ralph, and Lloyd of Cowgill, Mrs. Wesley Shirely and Mrs. Charley Decker of Kansas City, Mrs. W. L. Misel and Mrs. Walter Kincaid of Cowgill. He also had two daughters by a previous marriage, one having preceded him in death in 1923 and Mrs. Ted Dixon of Kansas City. Funeral services were held at the Baptist Church in Cowgill, conducted by Rev. Harrington Saturday. Burial was in the Cowgill Cemetery.
“Immediately following the reading of Mr. Ballew’s funeral obituary there followed a short memorial service of his son, D.B. Ballew Jr., who helped hoist the country’s flag on the island of Iwo Jima. During the funeral, the proper service for the replacement on the church service flag by a gold star was conducted by Billy Haynes, service officer.
“The following obituary of PVT. D.B. Ballew was read: D.B. Ballew, son of Daniel and Susie Ballew, was born Nov. 4, 1925 and gave his life for his country Mar. 2, 1945 on Iwo Jima, age 19 years, 3 months and 28 days. D.B. was a graduate of the Cowgill high school class of 1943. July 14, 1944 he volunteered with the United States Marines and Nov. 12, volunteered for overseas duty and entered combat service Feb. 19 with the 5th Division of Marines on Iwo Jima, where he paid the supreme sacrifice. Jan. 28 he joined the Protestant Church while on board his ship. Was reported to have helped raise the U.S. Flag on Mt. Suribachi Feb. 23. D.B. Had only one 10-day furlough since entering the army and that was just before leaving for active duty. He was loved and respected by everyone that knew him and will be sadly missed by his loved ones and many friends. From the Braymer Bee.”
Arthur Dean Van Hoy was another Richmondite with an Iwo Jima connection. He was in the U.S. Navy and spent 26 months on LST 807 in the Pacific. He was at Iwo Jima and saw the U.S. flag being raised. He died in 2011 and was buried at the Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville with full military honors. A few years ago, he shared his story with the Richmond News. His story has now been added to the World War II room at the Ray County Museum, alongside Harold’s story and a copy of both pictures.
I had always heard that Joe Rosenthal’s famous picture had been “staged,” but that was far from the truth. It all started with the Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, and 2nd Battalion Commander Chandler Johnson. They both wanted the flag that flew at Iwo Jima and since Johnson thought the flag belonged to the battalion, he sent his men to get a replacement flag for Forrestal.
The second group of Marines reached the top around noon with the second flag. Joe Rosenthal and fellow photographers Bob Campbell and Bill Genaust were climbing up the mountain when they ran into Lowery, who had taken the first picture. They had thought of turning around, but Lowery told them the view was great from the top, so they climbed on.
Rosenthal’s group reached the peak as the second flag was being raised. Rosenthal was building himself a rock pile to stand on for a better view and almost missed the shot. He later said, “Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera and shot the scene. That is how the picture was taken, and when you take a picture like that, you don’t come away saying you got a great shot. You don’t know.”
Rosenthal sent his film to Guam, where it was printed and Associated Press editor John Bodkin claimed, “Here’s one for all time!” The picture was sent out to newspapers across the nation via the “wire.” Seventeen hours after it was taken, the famous flag-raising picture was already taking its place forever in history.
After hearing about these two pictures, I have to wonder how much of our history really happened as we think it did. Like Milford Wyss always says, “Unless we saw it with our own eyes, it’s a second-hand story.” I would also like to add that two people can see the same thing and recount it differently when they report what happened.
Looking back on this story, I think about how things would have been very different if Lowery, the first photographer, had not encouraged Rosenthal’s group to go on up and check out the view from the top. If they’d turned around, Rosenthal’s picture would not have been taken. The world will never know if Staff Sgt. Louis Lowery’s picture would have been famous if it were the one and only picture of the Mt. Suribachi flag-raising on Iwo Jima.
Semper Fi, guys, Semper Fi.