Shadow of Suribachi

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Shadow of Suribachi: Raising the Flags on Iwo Jima
Author Parker Bishop Albee, Jr.
Keller Cushing Freeman
Cover artist Joe Rosenthal (photograph: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima)
Country United States
Language English
Genre Military history
Publisher Praeger Publishers
Publication date
Media type Print Hardcover
Pages 174 pp (first edition, hardcover)
ISBN 0-275-95063-8 (first edition, hardcover)
OCLC 31010773
940.54/2528 22
LC Class D767.99.I9 A4 1995

Shadow of Suribachi: Raising The Flags on Iwo Jima (1995) is a book released during the 50th anniversary of the flag-raising(s) atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima during World War II which was written by Parker Bishop Albee, Jr. and Keller Cushing Freeman. The book mainly examines the controversy over the identification of the flag-raiser who was positioned at the base of the flagpole in Joe Rosenthal's Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima photograph of the second flag-raising on February 23, 1945.


Though the authors cover and debunk the various staging myths that have haunted the famous photograph of six men (three were later killed in action after the flag was raised) raising the flag, much of the book is devoted to the story of Sergeant Hank Hansen who was first identified and believed to be in Rosenthal's famous photograph which became the model for the Marine Corps War Memorial that was completed in 1954. Hansen was a member of the 40-man combat patrol mostly from Third Platoon, E Company, 28th Marines, that climbed up Mount Suribachi and raised the first of two flags atop Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945. After the battle of Iwo Jima, Hansen (killed in action on March 1) was incorrectly identified as a flag-raiser in the photograph by E Company's runner (messenger) during the battle, Rene Gagnon, who helped raise the second flag. E Company's Third Platoon corpsman, John Bradley (incorrectly named a second flag-raiser),[1] also misidentified Hansen as a second flag-raiser. Marine Ira Hayes was the only second flag-raiser (Gagnon, Hayes, and Block were not members of the 40-man patrol) who correctly said the person in the photograph thought to be Hansen was really Corporal Harlon Block. Block was not officially recognized as a second flag-raiser until January 1947.

Ira Hayes questions misidentification[edit]

Recounted is the story of how Ira Hayes (a surviving second-flag-raiser named by Gagnon) knew that it was actually Corporal Harlon Block and not Hansen in Rosenthal's photograph (Block and Hansen were both killed in action on Iwo Jima, on March 1, 1945), and tried to bring the "error" to the attention of the Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who was interviewing him about the flag-raising in April 1945 (same person interviewed Gagnon on April 7, and days later, Bradley), in Washington, D.C., before the May 11, 7th War Loan drive (7th bond selling tour; Gagnon, Hayes, and Bradley were to take the actual second-flag with them to 33 U.S. cities across America to sell bonds to help pay for the war) but was told that since both Hansen and Block names were already released publicly as being flag-raisers in the photograph by the Marine Corps (on April 8) and since both were deceased, he should let it go (Hayes was ordered back to E Company in Hawaii on April 24 and left April 25 before the bond tour ended on July 4). Their story differs from that of most Hayes biographers as they transcribe a letter which Hayes wrote to Belle Block (Harlon's mother) on July 12, 1946, confirming it was her son Harlon in the photograph (after she first wrote to him). The authors' do not mention the "hitchhiking to Texas to tell them the truth" story.

After Belle Block sent Hayes' letter to her congressman through Mr. Block in September 1946, the congressman wrote the Marine Corps asking them to look into the matter. Hayes (second flag-raisers Hayes, Block, Michael Strank, and Franklin Sousley were members of Second Platoon, E Company) gave an affidavit listing the names of the six flag-raisers (including Bradley) in the photograph to the Marine Corps during their investigation the following December (began on December 4) into the identities of the six flag-raisers in Rosenthal's photograph, stating on the record that it was actually Block and not Hansen in the photograph, and pointed out several significant uniform discrepancies between the figure in the famous photograph and that of Hansen in photographs taken earlier that day and in Rosenthal's "Gung Ho" photograph of several Marines (sixteen Marines and two corpsmen) including Hansen (wearing his cap and parachutist boots) under the second flag/flagstaff taken only moments after the second flag-raising.

Before seeing Hayes' hand-written notes and identifications on the photographs, both Gagnon and Bradley sent notarized statements reaffirming their earlier identification of Hansen. After being shown Hayes' material, Bradley wrote a letter to the investigators which he ended by saying, " could be Block." Hayes' material and Bradley's letter were then sent to Gagnon, who, according to this book, gave in and acquiesced in a letter, the first paragraph of which was copied word-for-word from Bradley's.


On January 15, 1947, the Marine Corps appointed investigating board found that the figure at the base of the flagpole in the photograph had been "incorrectly identified since April 8, 1945, as being Sergeant Henry O. Hansen." Furthermore, they stated that "to the best of the ability of the Board to determine at this time, the above-mentioned figure is that of Corporal Harlan [sic] H. Block."

Albee and Freeman conclude that it is ultimately impossible to tell, based only on the photographic evidence, who is at the base of the flagpole.


  1. ^ USMC Statement on Marine Corps Flag Raisers, Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communication, 23 June 2016

Shadow of Suribachi: Raising The Flags on Iwo Jima. Parker Bishop Albee, Jr. and Keller Cushing Freeman. 1995. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0-275-95063-8
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