On February 23, 1945 (72 years ago today) a small U.S. flag was first raised atop Mount Suribachi soon after the mountaintop was captured at around 10:20 am. 1st Lt. Harold G. Schrier, executive officer of Easy Company, volunteered to lead a 40-man combat patrol up the mountain. Lt. Col. Johnson, the battalion commander, handed Schrier a flag saying, “If you get to the top put it up.” The patrol carried that 54-by-28-inch flag, which had been taken from the battalion’s transport ship, the USS Missoula, and up to the slopes of the extinct volcano. Lt. Schrier successfully led the combat patrol to the top. The flag was attached to a pipe, and the flagstaff was raised, marking the first time in history the American flag was raised on Japanese soil. The moment was captured by U.S. Marine Corps photographer, SSgt. Lou Lowery.
There was a roar from the Marines and sailors off shore and on the island, and the blasts of the ship horns alerted the Japanese, who up to this point had stayed in their cave bunkers. The Marines and corpsmen on Mt. Suribachi found themselves under fire from Japanese troops, but Schrier’s Marines were able quickly to eliminate the threat.
The last time. I woke up at 5:30 to watch the moon fade and the sun stain the clouds a hazy red. We’re docked in Honolulu and the vessel feels like a dead thing, no longer rolling beneath us in the swell. Land smells strange. Buildings seem impossible. I am still unsure whether I belong here.