Henry Oliver Hansen

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Henry Oliver Hansen
Hansen as a paratrooper in 1942
Born (1919-12-14)December 14, 1919
Boston, Massachusetts
Died March 1, 1945(1945-03-01) (aged 25)
KIA Iwo Jima
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1938–1945
Rank Sergeant
Unit 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines
Battles/wars Bougainville
Battle of Iwo Jima
Awards Purple Heart Medal
Combat Action Ribbon
Presidential Unit Citation
World War II Victory Medal

Henry Oliver "Hank" Hansen (December 14, 1919 – March 1, 1945) was a United States Marine Corps sergeant who was killed in action during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. He was member of the combat patrol that climbed, captured, and raised the American flag and flagstaff on top of Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945. He helped to raise the first flag, and was for a time, incorrectly identified as being one of the six flag raisers in the world famous second Mount Suribachi flag raising photograph taken the same day by Associated Press photographer, Joe Rosenthal.

Early life[edit]

Hansen was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, with one sister and three brothers. He graduated from Somerville High School in 1938 and joined the Marine Corps.

U.S. Marine Corps[edit]

February 23, 1945: SSgt. Louis Lowery's (Leatherneck Magazine) photograph of the first American flag flown on Mount Suribachi after it was raised at 10:20 am by 1Lt Harold Schrier, 3rd Platoon Commander, Sgt. Ernest Thomas, 3rd Platoon Sergeant, and Sgt. Hansen, 3rd Platoon Guide, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division[1]
Sgt. Henry "Hank" Hansen (soft cap) is pictured here holding his rifle with his right arm while helping Pvt. Phil Ward and Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class John Bradley, USN (above Ward), 3rd Platoon, steady and secure the flag pipe in the sand and wind using his left hand. In the early afternoon, a longer and heavier flag pipe with a larger flag replaced the first flag pipe and flag on Mount Suribachi.

World War II[edit]

In 1942, the Paramarines were formed and after that training he became a Marine parachutist. He fought in the Bougainville Campaign in 1943. In February 1944, the Paramarines were disbanded and he was transferred to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California.

Iwo Jima[edit]

Hansen was a member of the 5th Marine Division when it made an assault landing on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. On February 23, he was one of the members of the 40-man patrol led by First Lieutenant Harold Schrier of Company E that climbed Mount Suribachi and raised the first American flag on top of it and were photographed by Marine Corps photographer Staff Sergeant Lou Lowery.[2] On February 25, Platoon Sergeant Ernest Thomas, during a press interview aboard the USS Eldorado, named Hansen as one of the first flag-raisers besides Lt. Harold Schrier and himself. The first flag pipe and flag were replaced hours later that day with a larger flag attached to a longer and heavier pipe. The larger replacement flag was raised by five Marines and a Navy corpsman. The photograph of the second flag raising by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press became world famous. On March 1, Hansen was killed in action.

There became a disagreement after the battle over the identity of the Marine at the base of the second flag and flag pipe in the famous photograph of the second flag-raising. Surviving second flag-raisers of the battle, Rene Gagnon and corpsman John Bradley, had initially identified this person as Hansen. Hayes had originally told a Marine officer that the flag-raiser said to be Hansen was really Block, but as the Marine Corps had already made public announcements that Hansen had been identified as a second flag-raiser, Hayes, Gagnon, and Bradley were told to say nothing.[3]

In February 1947, a six-month Congressional investigation revealed that the Marine identified to be Hansen from Third Platoon, Company E, was actually Corporal Harlon Block from Second Platoon, Company E. Second flag-raiser Ira Hayes, who was a member of the same rifle squad as Block, was instrumental in proving Block's participation and position in the flag-raising shown in the famous photo.


Sgt. Hansen is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific near Honolulu on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.[4]

Military awards and decorations[edit]

Hansen's military awards include:

Public recognition[edit]

The Henry O. Hansen Memorial Park, in his home town of Somerville, was named in his honor in June 2004.[5]

Portrayal in film[edit]

Hank Hansen is featured in the 2006 Clint Eastwood movie Flags of Our Fathers, where he is played by American actor Paul Walker. The movie is based on the book of the same title.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Richmond News, Camden-Fleming man an unsung hero at Iwo Jima. January 2, 2012. Retrieved March 19, 2014
  2. ^ The First Flag-Raising On Iwo Jima.
  3. ^ Bradley, James. Flags of Our Fathers. p. 417.
  4. ^ Henry Oliver Hansen at Find a Grave
  5. ^ Somerville park named for Iwo Jima flag-raiser, The Boston Globe, June 15, 2004.