As promised, I'm going to do a blog each Friday about something in the book "It's About Time: How Long History Took" by Mike Flanagan. To keep myself from duplicating posts, I'm going to start at the beginning of the book and work my way through it. Mr. Flanagan starts with the faster historical moments and works his way up to the longest. The fastest moment he has is the photographing the American Flag raising on Iwo Jima, which took 1/400th of a second.....that's not quite as fast as Michael Phelps' win in the Olympics, but it's pretty fast.
Here's what Mr. Flanagan has to say about this momentous occasion:
"Time felt suspended on the island of Iwo Jima [which means sulphur island in Japanese] after 72 consecutive days of naval bombardment. Now the Fifth Marines Division had landed to finish the job, flushing out the remaining Japanese defenders from a network of catacombs. On the fourth day of the operation, February 23, 1945, Col. Chandler Johnson called for a large flag to be planted on Mount Suribachi, a dormant volcano. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal perched on a pile of sandbags, set his shutter for 1/400th of a second and snapped the most famous picture of WWII as Rene Gagnon, John Bradley, Mike Strank, Harlan Block, Frank Sousley and Ira Hays hoisted the 20-foot pipe that bore the American flag."
The website http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/7338/usmc.html explains that the island of Iwo Jima was important to the allied forces because of its "distance between mainland Japan and U.S. bases in the Mariana Islands, the capture of Iwo Jima would provide an emergency landing strip for crippled B-29s returning from bombing runs. The seizure of Iwo would allow for sea and air blockades, the ability to conduct intensive air bombardment and to destroy the enemy's air and naval capabilities. "
The flag raising that Rosenthal captured was actually the second flag raising of the day. The above sited website goes on to say: "At 10:20 a.m., the flag was hoisted on a steel pipe above the island by First Lieutenant Harold Schrier, platoon commander, Sergeant Ernest I. Thomas, platoon sergeant, Corporal Charles W. Lindberg, and Private First Class James R. Nicel. This symbol of victory sent a wave of strength to the battle-weary fighting men below, and struck a further mental blow against the island's defenders." This flag raising was captured on film by Marine Corps photographer Sergeant Lou Lowery.
Three hours later, the more famous and well-known flag raising was ordered and photographed.
The Geocities website also gives the campaign results:
"The 36-day assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead. Of the 20,000 Japanese defenders, only 1,083 survived. The Marines' efforts, however, provided a vital link in the U.S. chain of bomber bases. By war's end, 2,400 B-29 bombers carrying 27,000 crewman made unscheduled landings on the island. Historians described U.S. forces' attack against the Japanese defense as "throwing human flesh against reinforced concrete." In the end, Iwo Jima was won not only by the fighting spirit of the Marines, but by the meticulous planning and support provided by the Navy and Army through supply efforts, medical care, and air and naval gunfire. Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines and sailors, many posthumously, more than were awarded for any other single operation during the war."
Another good website for information on this battle is: http://www.defenselink.mil/home/features/iwo_jima/iwo.html It includes the video taken by Sgt. Lou Lowery.