harlon block

On this day in history 1945, the american flag was raised over mount suribachi, Iwo Jima. Taken by photographer Joe rosenthal. 

Of the 6 marines raising the flag. Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon block and PFC Franklin sousley would be killed in action. 

The 3 surviving marines were corporals rene gagnon, Ira hayes, Harold schultz.

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The Forgotten Paramarines of World War II,

When one thinks of World War II paratroopers, famous units such as the 101st and 82nd Airborne come to mind.  After all these units became famous for their daredevil combat airdrops all over Europe.  However during World War II in the Pacific, a little known force of “paramarines” was created.  

Called the 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, which consisted of 3,000 men, they were much like their Army counterparts in that they were an elite force who used special equipment and training to accomplish their unique missions.  They had higher standards of fitness, received higher pay, and because of the dangerous nature of their missions were required to be unmarried.  Another unique aspect of of the paramarines were that they were issued with some of the less common American weapons used during World War II, such as the Reising Submachine Gun, Johnson Semi-Automatic Rifle, and Johnson Light Machine (pictured below in order).

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Throughout the Pacific Theater the paramarines were known as some the toughest and hardest charging devil dogs in the corps.  Their list of combat tours include Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and the Soloman Islands Campaign.  Casualties were especially high at Guadalcanal where the unit suffered a 20% casualty rate, among the highest of all Marine units who participated in the battle.

Despite being highly trained and motivated parachutists, the paramarines never made a combat jump during the war.  The only exception was small group of paramarines who dropped into France to help the French Resistance.  Rather the paramarines conducted amphibious operations just like regular marines.  This was due to two factors.  The first was that the Marine Corps lacked aircraft from which to conduct paradrops.  Rather the paramarines were dependent on US Army Air Corps planes to conduct training and operations.  Finally, and more importantly, the Pacific Theater lacked the terrain needed for successful airborne operations.  Since most of the Pacific’s battles were fought in either dense jungle or small heavily fortified islands, there was little chance the paramarines would ever conduct a combat jump.

On December 30th, 1943 the 1st Marine Parachute Regiment was officially disbanded, and its marines transferred to other units.  Most would be transferred to the 5th Marine Division who landed at Iwo Jima on February 19th, 1945.   Former Paramarines, Cpl. Harlon H. Block and Pfc. Ira H. Hayes, assisted in the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi on 23 February 1945.  Of the 81 Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipients during World War II, five were former paramarines who fought at Iwo Jima.

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Yesterday at the Weslaco museum I noticed a few mistakes in a ribbon order on an old Marine uniform Purple heart And Combat action ribbon on lower stack,shooting badge on other side of uniform so I fixed it up some Harlon Blocks ribbon and medal order they were all scrambled up, my father is a U.S. Marine  and he would have wanted me or a fellow Marine to fix this. So I did and got Harlons Uniform squared away.Block a Weslaco Tx native and twelve of his high school football teammates enlisted in the Marine Corps through the Selective Service System at San Antonio on February 18, 1943. After basic training in San Diego, he took parachute training and qualified as a Paramarine. He was promoted to Private First Class on May 22, 1943.Block landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. He participated in the second flag-raising on Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945. Block idolized his squad leader named Sergeant Michael Strank, and according to the book, Flags of Our Fathers, followed Strank without question. On March 1, Sergeant Strank was killed. Block, the assistant squad leader, assumed command of the rifle squad. Hours later, Block was badly wounded by a mortar blast as he and squad were attacking toward Nishi Ridge… his last words were, “They killed me”!He is best known as one of the six men photographed raising the flag on Iwo Jima.

 It was an honor getting this Marine squared away one last time.

RankCorporalUnitE Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine DivisionBattles/wars

World War II

On February 23, 1945, on orders from Colonel Chandler Johnson — Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon H. Block, Private First Class Franklin R. Sousley, and Private First Class Ira H. Hayes (all four from the Second Platoon, Easy Company) spent the morning after the first flag-raising laying a telephone wire to the top of Mt. Suribachi. Severance also dispatched Private First Class Rene A. Gagnon, the battalion runner for Easy Company, to the command post for fresh SCR-300 walkie-talkie batteries.

The four Marines reached the top of the mountain around noon, where Gagnon joined them, with an new, large 96-by-56–inch flag. AP photographer Joe Rosenthal, along with Marine photographers Bob Campbell and Bill Genaust were climbing Suribachi at this time. On the way up, the trio met Lowery, who photographed the first flag-raising. They considered turning around, but Lowery told them that the summit was an excellent vantage point from which to take photographs. Rosenthal’s trio reached the summit as the Marines were attaching the flag to an old Japanese water pipe. The five Marines and Navy Pharmacist Mate Second Class John Bradley began raising the flag and flagpole. Realizing he was about to miss the action, Rosenthal quickly swung his camera up and snapped the photograph without using the viewfinder.

Ten years after the flag-raising, Rosenthal wrote: “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’s photograph would go on to win the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Photography, and is the only photograph to win the prize in the same year it was taken and has gone on to become one of the most recognized photographs in history.

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February 23, 1945, Iwo Jima: Five Marines from the 5th Division and a Navy medical corpsman raise the flag on Mt. Suribachi. AP Photographer Joe Rosenthal captures the moment in what would become one of the famous images of WWII. Only three of the men made it off the island alive.

1. Flag Raising

2. Franklin Sousley: Born 9/19/25, Hill Top, KY. KIA 3/21/45, Iwo Jima.

3. John Bradley: Born 7/10/23, Antigo, WI. Died 1/11/94, Antigo, WI.

4. Harlon Block: Born 11/6/24, Yorktown, TX. Died 3/1/45, Iwo Jima.

5. Michael Strank: Born 11/10/19, Prešov Region, Slovakia. Died 3/1/45, Iwo Jima. 

6. Rene Gagnon: Born 3/7/25, Manchester, NH. Died 10/12/79, Hooksett, NH.

7. Ira Hayes: Born 1/12/23, Sacaton, AZ. Died 1/24/55, Bapchule, Arizona, AZ

8. U.S. Marine Corp Memorial

Later on February 23, 1945, on orders from Colonel Chandler Johnson — Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon H. Block, Private First Class Franklin R. Sousley, and Private First Class Ira H. Hayes (all four from the Second Platoon, Easy Company) spent the morning after the first flag-raising laying a telephone wire to the top of Mt. Suribachi. Severance also dispatched Private First Class Rene A. Gagnon, the battalion runner for Easy Company, to the command post for fresh SCR-300 walkie-talkie batteries.

The four Marines reached the top of the mountain around noon, where Gagnon joined them, with an new, large 96-by-56–inch flag. AP photographer Joe Rosenthal, along with Marine photographers Bob Campbell and Bill Genaust were climbing Suribachi at this time. On the way up, the trio met Lowery, who photographed the first flag-raising. They considered turning around, but Lowery told them that the summit was an excellent vantage point from which to take photographs. Rosenthal’s trio reached the summit as the Marines were attaching the flag to an old Japanese water pipe. The five Marines and Navy Pharmacist Mate Second Class John Bradley began raising the flag and flagpole. Realizing he was about to miss the action, Rosenthal quickly swung his camera up and snapped the photograph without using the viewfinder.

Ten years after the flag-raising, Rosenthal wrote: “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’s photograph would go on to win the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Photography, and is the only photograph to win the prize in the same year it was taken and has gone on to become one of the most recognized photographs in history.