Franklin Sousley

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Franklin Runyon Sousley
Franklin Sousley.jpg
Sousley in 1944
Born (1925-09-19)September 19, 1925
Hill Top, Kentucky
Died March 21, 1945(1945-03-21) (aged 19)
Iwo Jima, Japan  
Place of burial Originally on Iwo Jima
later reinterred in Elizaville Cemetery, Kentucky
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch USMC logo.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1944--1945
Rank Private First Class
Unit 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division

World War II

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.

Early life[edit]

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[edit]

Raising the Flag outline.svg

U.S. Marine Corps[edit]

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[edit]

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.[1] 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.

Military awards[edit]

Sousley's military awards:

PFC Sousley's service ribbons at the time of his death. The stars shown in silver were actually bronze.

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[edit]

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.

In the 2006 film Flags of Our Fathers, about the six flag raisers on Iwo Jima, Franklin Sousley was portrayed by actor Joseph Michael Cross. The film is based on the 2000 book of the same title.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Mighty Seventh War Loan:
  2. ^ Combat Action Ribbon (1969), retroactive to December 7, 1941: Public Law 106-65--October 5, 1999, 113 STAT. 588

External links[edit]