The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
by: Jennifer Sparrow, Special For The Quill
On the wall of Mrs. Jean Carnes' home in Terre Haute, hangs a picture most of us would recognize.
It is the picture of six United States Marines raising the American flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima on Mount Suribachi during World War II on February 23, 1945.
The historic photo was taken by Joe Rosenthal.
Jean's picture is unique, however, in that it is signed by two of the men who were in this famous photo.
The story behind the photo of the raising of our U.S. flag during World War II is worth repeating to those unaware of this picture's history.
The picture in Jean's home once belonged to her Uncle Earl Shackelford. Earl Shackelford was a very accomplished man. Shackelford was a WWI veteran.
He was one of the few founders of the national organization of the American Legion.
He organized one of the first Boy Scout Troops west of the Mississippi. Shackelford also knew Harry S. Truman before he became a U.S. President.
Shackelford used to buy hats from Truman at a haberdashery in Independence, Missouri. He remained friends with Truman after his term as U.S. President as well.
In 1936 Earl Shackelford began his career in state government in Missouri. He served on the Workman's Compensation Commission and was then appointed by the Governor to be the Commissioner of Labor. In 1941 he was appointed Missouri State Director of the Defense Bonds Division of the U.S. Treasury.
It was during Earl Shackelford's position as State Director of the Defense Bonds Division that Earl got the privilege to meet two of the US Marines in the famous photo of the raising of the US flag at Iwo Jima.
During WWII, President Roosevelt paid for the war by selling war bonds. He decided to use the flag raising Iwo Jima photo as the symbol for his "7th Bond Drive" and requested that the survivors in the photo tour the United States during the drive to help raise money for the 7th war bond drive.
It was during this bond tour that Earl Shackelford met Rene Gagnon and John Bradley, two of the men in the flag raising at Iwo Jima photo and they each signed the photo for Earl.
History Of The Flag Raising Photo On Iwo Jima
Iwo Jima was located halfway between Japan and the Mariana Islands. American long range bombers were stationed on the Mariana Islands. Iwo Jima was used as an early warning system by the Japanese. Invading Iwo Jima was part of an island hopping strategy to defeat Japan. The island is dominated by Mount Suribachi and the American effort concentrated on isolating and capturing Suribachi first. The island was heavily fortified and the invaded U.S. Marines suffered high casualties. They achieved their goal four days after the battle began on February 23, 1945. The island would not be declared secure until 31 days later.
After the American's captured the island, it deprived the Japanese of their early warning system. The Americans later used the island as an emergency landing strip for damaged bombers which saved many American lives.
The flag raising event on February 23, 1945 in Joe Rosenthal's photo was actually the second flag raising of the day. The first U.S. flag was raised early in the morning on Mount Suribachi.
A photo of this event was taken by Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery, a photographer with Leatherbeck magazine. The Marines were ordered to take a patrol to raise an American flag at the summit to signal to others that had fallen.
However, this flag was too small to be seen easily from nearby beaches. Rene Gagnon was given a larger flag from a nearby Tank Landing Ship LST 779.
The 40 man patrol reached the top of Suribachi around noon without being fired at once, as the Japanese were under bombardment at the time.
The Marines raised this U.S. flag a second time using an old Japanese water pipe for a flagpole.
Joe Rosenthal was also climbing Mt. Suribachi along with two other Marine photographers (who were later killed in action nine days after the flag raising). On the way up they met Lowery (who photographed the first flag raising). They had considered turning back, but Lowery told them that the summit was an excellent point to take pictures. 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 photo won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Photography, the first and only photograph to win the prize in the same year it was taken.
For the next two months after Joe Rosenthal's photo became the symbol for the FDR's "7th Bond Drive", everyone in America would see this picture over and over. It hung in: one million retail store windows, 16,000 movie theaters, 15,000 banks, 200,000 factories, 30,000 railroad stations, and 5,000 large billboards. The 7th Bond Tour raised $24 BILLION (1945 Dollars) for the US Treasury.
This was more than any other bond tour. (The total US Budget at the time was 1946 was $56 Billion.)
The six men depicted in the photo raising the flag on Iwo Jima were Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, John Bradley, Harlan Block, Michael Strank, and Rene Gagnon. Strank, Block and Sousley would die shortly afterwards.
The three who survived became national heroes within weeks.
Ira Hayes was horrified when he learned that President Roosevelt wanted him and the other survivors to go on the bond tour. To him, the true heroes were his buddies who died there.
Ira couldn't understand or accept the adulation. Ira died at the age of 32 after a night of drinking reportedly crying and mumbling about his "good buddies".
Rene Gagnon carried the flag up Mt Suribachi. Gagnon attempted to cash in on his celebrity status. He made a brief movie career and was part of a Rose Bowl half-time show. In the end it amounted to almost nothing which left him bitter and an alcoholic. He worked at menial jobs and was fired from most of them. He died of a heart attack in 1979.
John Bradley was successful in his life after the war. He returned to his home town in the Midwest, owned family businesses, gave of his time and money to local causes, was married for 47 years and had eight children. He died in 1994.
Jean Carnes has fond memories of her Uncle "Shack" and his wife, Grace. She has a collection of his awards and memorabilia from his government service, American Legion involvement, and his friendship with the Trumans. Jean was married to the late Lewis Carnes for 56 years. She has three children, five grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren.
As Flag Day Approaches on June 14th, let us all remember how truly blessed we are to live in this great United States of America and the sacrifices that were made out of loyalty to our great nation by our armed forces.