Riverside Man Took Part in the 1st Iwo Jima Flag Raising
It was 73 years ago today (February 23rd) that one of history's most famous photos was taken. U.S. Marines raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II.
Photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the image that quickly went on to become the most famous photo of WWII and the inspiration for the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
What you may or may not have known is that Rosenthal's iconic photo was actually the 2nd flag-raising on Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi that day in 1945.
From the National Park Service website:
On the morning of February 19, 1945, the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions invaded Iwo Jima after an ineffective 72-hour bombardment. The 28th Regiment of the 5th Division, was ordered to capture Mount Suribachi. They reached the base of the mountain on the afternoon of February 21 and, by nightfall the next day, had almost completely surrounded it. On the morning of February 23, Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, started the tortuous climb up the rough terrain to the top. At about 10:30 am men all over the island were thrilled by the sight of a small American flag flying from atop Mount Suribachi. That afternoon, when the slopes were clear of enemy resistance, a second, larger flag was raised in the same location.
I just learned this morning that there's an Illinois connection to the first flag-raising on Iwo Jima. Here's a photo of the Marines raising the first flag:
The man you see at the right front of the image, holding the M1 carbine to guard his fellow Marines during the flag-raising, is Riverside, Illinois native James Michels. He had pretty good reason to be so alert--this group was attacked by the island's Japanese defenders minutes after raising the flag.
Here's his story:
James Michels passed away in Riverside on January 17th, 1982 at the age of 63.