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thedrifter
01-28-08, 09:01 AM
Sousley service set in Fleming

By MARLA TONCRAY

Sunday, January 27, 2008 6:30 PM EST


FLEMINGSBURG -- Plans are underway to recognize the 63rd anniversary of the assault on Iwo Jima during World War II and the role Fleming County native Pfc. Franklin R. Sousley played in the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945.

The image news photographer Joe Rosenthal captured of five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the American flag on the island has become an iconic symbol of freedom. Sousley was one of the three flag-raisers in the photograph who died on Iwo Jima as American troops fought to secure the island.

According to Marine Corps League member Donald G. Dixon, USMCR retired and ceremony event organizer, the two-part program will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24 at the Franklin Sousley VFW Post in Flemingsburg followed by a ceremony at the Elizaville Cemetery at 4 p.m.

Guests attending the VFW program include Iwo Jima survivors Troy Bowling, Paul Frederick, Joe Lane and George Marsh, US Navy; former US Coast Guard Member Jim Wyrick will be the guest speaker.

The ceremony at Sousley's grave site, which is marked with an Iwo Jima memorial, will include a flag-raising ceremony by VFW and Iwo Jima veterans, remarks by Shirley "Tommy" White, Sgt. Maj. USMCR, retired and president of the Sousley Foundation, a rifle salute by the Marine Corps League Honor Guard Members, the playing of "Taps" by Billy McFarland of the Flemingsburg American Legion Post and bagpipes by Chris Paul of Task Force Omega of Flemingsburg.

Dixon said last year's ceremony drew between 200 and 300 people and the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C. is visited by more people than any other memorial in our nation's capitol.

For information about the Franklin Sousley Ceremony, contact Dixon at 859-277-2654, Willie Milton at 606-849-2257 or Rich Johnson at 606-849-6101.

The National Park Service Web site provides the following information about the Iwo Jima battle and the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial.




The small island of Iwo Jima lies 660 miles south of Tokyo. One of its outstanding geographical features is Mount Suribachi, an extinct volcano that forms the narrow southern tip of the island and rises 550 feet to dominate the area. By February 1945, U.S. troops had recaptured most of the territory taken by the Japanese in 1941 and 1942; still uncaptured was Iwo Jima, which became a primary objective in American plans to bring the Pacific campaign to a successful conclusion.

On the morning of Feb. 19, 1945, the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions invaded Iwo Jima after a somewhat ineffective bombardment lasting 72 hours. The 28th Regiment, 5th Division, was ordered to capture Mount Suribachi. They reached the base of the mountain on the afternoon of Feb. 21, and by nightfall the next day had almost completely surrounded it. On the morning of February 23, Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, started the tortuous climb up the rough terrain to the top. At about 10:30 a.m., men all over the island were thrilled by the sight of a small American flag flying from atop Mount Suribachi. That afternoon, when the slopes were clear of enemy resistance, a second, larger flag was raised by five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman: Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon H. Block, Pfc. Franklin R. Sousley, Pfc. Rene A. Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes, and PhM. 2/c John H. Bradley, USN.

Memorial Statistics: the 32-foot-high figures are shown erecting a 60-foot bronze flagpole from which a cloth flag flies 24 hours a day in accordance with Presidential proclamation of June 12, 1961. They occupy the same positions as in Rosenthal's historic photograph. Hayes is the figure farthest from the flag staff; Sousley to the right front of Hayes; Strank on Sousley's left; Bradley in front of Sousley; Gagnon in front of Strank; and Block closest to the bottom of the flagstaff. The figures, placed on a rock slope, rise about 6 feet from a 10-foot base, making the memorial 78 feet high overall. The M-l rifle and the carbine carried by two of the figures are 16 and 12 feet long, respectively. The canteen would hold 32 quarts of water.

When Rosenthal's Pulitzer Prize winning photo was released, sculptor Felix W. de Weldon, then on duty with the U.S. Navy, was so moved by the scene that he constructed a scale model and then a life-size model of it. Gagnon, Hayes, and Bradley, the three survivors of the flag raising (the others having been killed in later phases of the Iwo Jima battle), posed for the sculptor who modeled their faces in clay. All available pictures and physical statistics of the three who had given their lives were collected and then used in the modeling of their faces.

Contact Marla Toncray at marla.toncray@lee.net or 606-564-9091 ext. 275.

Ellie