|Franklin Runyon Sousley|
Sousley in 1944
September 19, 1925|
Hill Top, Kentucky
|Died||March 21, 1945
Iwo Jima, Japan †
|Place of burial||Originally on Iwo Jima
later reinterred in Elizaville Cemetery, Kentucky
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1944--1945|
|Rank||Private First Class|
|Unit||2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division|
|Awards||Purple Heart Medal
Combat Action Ribbon
Presidential Unit Citation
Franklin Runyon Sousley (September 19, 1925 – March 21, 1945) was a United States Marine who was killed in action on Iwo Jima during World War II. He is one of the six flag-raisers in the famous photograph of United States Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima in World War II.
Sousley was born in Hill Top, Kentucky, the second child born to Merle Duke Sousley (1899–1934) and Goldie Mitchell (November 9, 1904 – March 14, 1988). When he was two years old, his five-year-old brother, Malcolm Brooks Sousley (November 24, 1923 – May 30, 1928), died due to appendicitis. Franklin attended a two-room schoolhouse in nearby Elizaville, and attended Fleming County High School in nearby Flemingsburg from ninth to twelfth grade. His younger brother Julian was born in May 1933, and his father died due to diabetes complications a year later, at age 35. At only nine years old, Franklin was the sole male-figure in the family, and assisted his mother in raising Julian. Julian died in a car accident on 4 October 1951, at the age of 18. Sousley graduated from Fleming High School in May 1943, and resided in Dayton, Ohio as a worker in a refrigerator factory.
World War II
U.S. Marine Corps
Sousley received his draft notice, and chose to join the United States Marine Corps on January 4, 1944. Later, he underwent extensive combat training in California and Hawaii as a member of the Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment, Fifth Marine Division.
Flag raising on Iwo Jima
Sousley landed with his unit at the southern end of Iwo Jima near Mount Suribachi which was the 2/28 Marine objective on February 19, 1945, and fought in the battle for the capture of the island. Around noon on February 23, Marine Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon Block, Pfc, Ira Hayes, and Pfc. Franklin Sousley of the Second Platoon of Easy Company were ordered to climb Mount Suribachi and raise a replacement flag on the summit, and on the way up lay telephone communication wire to the top. Also on the way up, was Pfc. Rene Gagnon the Company E runner (messenger) with the flag. The five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman John Bradley, who had been on the top of the mountain in the morning with the Third Platoon of Easy Company when the first flag was raised, raised the replacement flag attached to a steel pipe on the summit as the first flag and pipe was lowered. The second raising was immortalized forever by the photo of the flag raising by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press.
Sousley was to be returned to Washington, D.C. for a War Bond selling tour with the other five flag-raisers after the Marines secured Iwo Jima. According to the book Shadow of Suribachi: Raising the Flags on Iwo Jima (1995), when the word reached Iwo Jima before the island was secure, Sousley was on a dangerous part of the island, and his company commander decided it was safer to leave him where he was than attempt an extrication under the conditions. The book Flags of Our Fathers (2000) by James Bradley, says on March 21, 1945, Sousley was shot in the back by a Japanese sniper, as he was walking down an open road on the nearly-secured island. A fellow Marine witnessed Sousley lying on the ground and asked, "How bad are you hit?" Sousley's reply and last words were reportedly, "Not bad, I can't feel a thing." However, the book From Hilltop to Mountaintop by Ron Elliott, shows an affidavit signed by Rene Gagnon reporting that "Sousley was killed instantly". Strank and Block were killed on March 1, Iwo Jima was officially secured on March 26, 1945.
Sousley's body was originally buried at the 5th Marine Division Cemetery on the island of Iwo Jima. His remains were reinterred on May 8, 1947, in Elizaville Cemetery in Fleming County, Kentucky.
Sousley's military awards:
- Purple Heart Medal
- Combat Action Ribbon
- Presidential Unit Citation with 3⁄16 bronze star
- American Campaign Medal
- Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 3⁄16 bronze star
- World War II Victory Medal.
- Rifle Expert Badge (BAR)
- Rifle Markman Badge (M1)
Note: The Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal required 4 years service during WWII time period and a first award of the PUC was with a star.
There is a small Franklin Sousley memorial in the Fleming County Public Library, Flemingsburg, Kentucky.
Portrayal in film
In the 1961 film The Outsider, starring Tony Curtis as Ira Hayes, the fictional character James B. Sorenson (Hayes's Marine buddy in the movie), portrayed by actor James Franciscus, was a composite based primarily on Franklin Sousley.
- Marine Corps War Memorial
- Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima
- From Hilltop to Mountaintop, Ron Elliott, Acclaim Press, 2010
- Shadow of Suribachi: Raising the Flags on Iwo Jima
- The Mighty Seventh War Loan: http://www.bucknell.edu/x36352.xml
- Combat Action Ribbon (1969), retroactive to December 7, 1941: Public Law 106-65--October 5, 1999, 113 STAT. 588
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