Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009
Nine World War II veterans who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima â two of them directly in the fight for Mount Suribachi â participated in a flag raising ceremony with active duty Marines at the United States Marine Corps War Memorial on Monday, February 23rd, the 64th anniversary of that event.
The ceremony â conducted under cold and blustery conditions â was timed to the minute, as the flag was raised at 10:17 a.m. to commemorate the exact same time 64 years ago that five Marines and one Navy corpsman had their images etched in history when photographed by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. That iconic image later won a Pulitzer Prize.
Deputy Superintendent Jon James welcomed the nine veterans, thanking them for their service more than six decades ago, for their willingness to provide oral histories to the parkâs staff, and, for some who live locally, for their continuing efforts as NPS volunteers at the memorial.
Colonel William Lietzau, commander of the U.S. Marines Detachment at Henderson Hall, a Marine Corps facility in Arlington, gave the invocation to a crowd of about 200 visitors, saying that the service provided by Marines 64 years ago was what led Admiral Nimitz to make the observation now engraved on the memorial: âUncommon valor was a common virtue.â A Marine honor guard provided military marching precision to the ceremony before and after the playing of the U.S. Marine hymn.
The nine veterans â Norman Hatch of Alexandria, VA, Cyril OâBrien of Camden, NJ, Morris Semiatin of Baltimore, MD, Benjamin Alfano of Providence, RI, Thomas Miller, formerly of New Orleans and now of Silver Spring, MD, Gordon Ward of Kensington, MD, Tom Cox of McLean, VA and Jim Wheeler of Falls Church, VA, both of whom were on Mt. Suribachi when the flag was raised, and Jack Colby of Arlington, VA â all spoke of the distinction and pride they derived from their service, of their honor for and tribute toward their fallen comrades in the Battle of Iwo Jima, and of their willingness to return for any future ceremonies.
Considered one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, the battle for Iwo Jima lasted for 36 days (from February 19 to March 26, 1945). Over 70,000 U.S. Marines served there, with nearly 7,000 Marines killed or missing and almost 20,000 Marines wounded.