12 December 2006

The Replacement Flag

Spoiler Warning: If you plan to see the movie or read the book, STOP! DON'T GO ON! Assuming the movie is a true rendition of the book, I'm revealing something that you may not want to know prior to seeing the movie.

End of Spoiler Warning.

I'm almost done with the book Flags of Our Fathers. I'm past the flagraising event and there sure are many interesting facts unearthed in the book. In the "historic" photograph of the six Marines raising the flag, it was really a non-event. It wasn't done during the heat of battle, with bullets whizzing past the soldiers as they planted the flag. As a matter of fact, no fighting occurred during the FIRST flagraising on Mount Suribachi either. That's right, the historic photo captured the second flagraising event. After days of fierce fighting, the Japanese either abandoned Suribachi or committed suicide deep inside the volcano's carved-out core. The Marines didn't know that and cautiously sent up a small group to plant a relatively small flag. The first flagraisers were Boots Thomas, Hank Hansen, Chuck Lindberg, and John Bradley. Military photographer Lou Lowery captured the images. It was this first flagraising that got the victorious combatants' attention. Down on the beach and up on the ships, Marines and Navy people cheered as the flag flapped in the air. Shortly afterward, some Navy bigshot mentioned that he wanted to keep the flag as a souvenir. Colonel Chandler Johnson of the Marines didn't like the idea at all and wanted the flag kept with the battalion. He ordered a replacement flag put into place. It was the planting of the replacement flag that Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press snapped on film. Unfortunately for Lowery and fortunately for Rosenthal, civilian film traveled faster than the military's, so it was Rosenthal's seemingly insignificant pictures that reached the U.S. first and became an icon overnight.

As it turned out, the historical replacement flag was left fluttering in the high wind of Mt. Suribachi for three weeks and became all torn up in the end. No souvenir for those @$#!* Navy honchos!

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