Unless correspondents ask us not to, this Website will post selected letters that it receives and invite open debate.
writes from North Carolina, USA, on Sunday, August 1, 1999
WHILE re-reading [David Irving's] The Trail of the Fox (AVON paper-bound edition, 1977) one more time, I came across a statement in which you referred to the famous flag raising on Mount Suribachi as being carefully posed. I take mild exception to the statement, but you are forgiven your mistake, since it is a common one.
In fact, there were two flag raisings on the summit of Suribachi on 23 Feb 45. The first flag was taken to the summit by a patrol of riflemen from Easy Company, 28th Marine Regiment to be used as a signal to the invasion fleet that the volcanic mountain had been seized from the Japanese defenders. That flag seems to have been a "storm flag" (an ensign flown during inclement weather, when high winds would likely damage larger flags) borrowed from the APA USS Missoula, part of the amphib group off shore. On a length of steel pipe found nearby, this flag was erected unceremoniously in the middle of a fire fight with enemy hold-outs. This event was captured on film by "Leatherneck Magazine" photographer SSgt Louis R. Lowey USMC
Because of its size, the flag was not visible enough for all on the island to see, and a decision was made to replace it with a large "garrison flag" which was donated from LST-779 (at the time off-loading men and equipment on the beach). This huge ensign was hustled up the slopes of Mount Suribachi by 2dLt A. Theodore Tuttle USMCR, and was raised up, also under sporadic Japanese fire, by six members of Easy Company and captured in the famous photograph by AP photo-journalist Joe Rosenthal.
Because there were two flag raisings, a rumor was begun that the second, the famous one, was actually staged after the fighting had ended. Since the fighting over the possession of Iwo Jima continued long after that photo was published in newsprint and magazines, it stands to reason that the rumor was false, and probably started by mean-spirited folks who have no love for the United States Marine Corps. I know you are familiar with folks like them.
I respectfully submit that while Field Marshal Rommel's photo-op's may have been carefully posed, this photograph was not, sir.
As a retired U.S. Marine, I was only too happy to supply you with the true story and was proud to give report of my nation's finest warriors at a moment of glory that may never be repeated.
THANK you for your fine letter; I recently saw a BBC television presentation on famous photographs; Photographer Rosenthal was interviewed about the Iwo Jima flag story, which was essentially the same as yours, though in less detail.