New York TimesPublished Aug. 4, 2021
Col. Dave Severance, Commander at Iwo Jima Passes. By Richard Goldstein
Col. Dave Severance, the commander of the Marine company that raised a huge American flag over the Japanese island of Iwo Jima in World War II, inspiring the photograph that thrilled the American home front and became an enduring image of men at war, died on Monday at his home in the La Jolla section of San Diego. He was 102.
The flag-raising atop Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, captured by an Associated Press photographer, Joe Rosenthal, was taken when the battle for Iwo Jima was far from over. In the days that followed, Colonel Severance earned the Silver Star, the Marines’ third-highest decoration for valor after the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross. The citation stated that in a firefight for a heavily defended ridge, he “skillfully directed the assault on this strong enemy position despite stubborn resistance.”
Colonel Severance, a captain at the time, commanded Easy Company of the 28th Marine Regiment, Fifth Marine Division — part of the 70,000-man Marine force that sought to seize Iwo Jima, 7.5 square miles of black volcanic sand about 660 miles south of Tokyo. The island, defended by 21,000 Japanese troops, held airstrips that were needed as bases for American fighter planes and as havens for crippled bombers returning to the Mariana Islands from missions over Japan.
Amid heavy casualties, the Marines by the fifth day of combat on Iwo Jima had silenced most opposition from Japanese soldiers dug into caves on Mount Suribachi, an extinct volcano 546 feet high at Iwo Jima’s southern tip.
In midmorning, a group of Marines from Easy Company raised a flag at the summit, a ceremony photographed by Sgt. Louis Lowery of the Marine magazine Leatherneck. When James Forrestal, the secretary of the Navy, who was on the beach below, saw the flag, he requested that it be kept as a memento. After it was returned to the beach, Colonel Severance sent another group of his Marines to bring a larger flag to the mountaintop.
It was the raising of the second flag that was portrayed in Mr. Rosenthal’s dramatic photograph.
Both flags are now at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va. Frayed by strong winds, the second flag flew above Mount Suribachi for the remainder of the Iwo Jima campaign. The Joe Rosenthal photograph is in the National Archives. And the scene he photographed was replicated on a monumental scale as the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac from the National Mall in Washington. The statue is dedicated to “the Marine dead of all wars and their comrades of other services who fell fighting beside them.”
Rest in Peace Colonel.