Above, Cpl. Charles Lindberg is standing top right as the flag is put in place.
June 2001 IBEW Journal
On February 24, 2001, they showed up at the Richfield, Minnesota, home of 80-year-old Charles Lindberg, a retired member of IBEW Local 292, Minneapolis. He was presented with a letter from the commandant of the Marine Corps honoring his role in the historic raising of the U.S. flag at Iwo Jima.
Formal Marine Corps recognition of what happened on February 23, 1945, came 56 years later because Lindberg helped raise the original flag on Mt. Suribachi at 10:40 a.m. Several hours later six other marines replaced it with a bigger flag and Associated Press Photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped what is arguably the most famous photo of World War II.
But Lindberg helped raise the flag that mattered to those who were there. Mt. Suribachi was the eyes of Iwo, the highest point on the volcanic island, and it took four horribly bloody days for the Marines to get there, crawling inch by inch as Japanese guns from underground fortifications in every cave rained death on them.
Then they saw that U.S. flag go up. The troops started cheering, and some were crying, and the ships whistles sounded off shore, Brother Lindberg says. It was something I will never forget.
It took another month of severe fighting before the campaign was declared over. The American death toll at Iwo Jima was 6,800about 6,000 of them marinesmore than the Normandy invasion the year before and the most since Gettysburg in the Civil War.
Brother Lindbergs weapon was a flame-thrower, a 72-pound rig he was strapped into throughout the trek with the flag and the fighting that followed its unfurling.
Six days later he was shot in the arm. He was awarded the U.S. Navys third highest award, the Silver Star, got off Iwo, got home to North Dakota and started work on a Local 292 permit card in 1952. He retired in 1985.
A new book, Flags of Our Fathers, published in May 2000 by James Bradley about his father Jack Doc Bradley, tells the entire story of the two flags, including a description of Brother Lindbergs heroism that won the Silver Star.
Wiping out the historic record of the first flag is not the AP photographers fault. Rosenthal said he didnt get ashore until noon after falling off the landing ramp while trying to get a photo when Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal disembarked.
Brother Lindberg got some of the credit he deserves in 1996 when he was invited back to Iwo Jima to speak at an anniversary commemoration, as one of the last survivors of the two flag-raisings. Six of the 12 Marines who raised the two flags were killed during subsequent fighting on Iwo. So was Lt. Col. Chandler Johnson. He sent the 40-marine unit up Suribachi that morning with the instructions if you get to the top, secure and hold it. And heretake this flag along.
Why Was the Wrong Flag-Raising Honored?
The Marines on Iwo Jima and many more at sea saw that historic flag when it was raised atop Mt. Suribachi. Many cried at that unforgettable sight. Two days later it was on the front page of newspapers around the world and those who saw it go up were stunned:
It was the wrong flag.
How could such a thing happen? How could a replacement flag that no one paid any attention to come to be the powerful worldwide symbol of American valor in World War II?
The answer, says someone who knows, boils down to the quality of two photos. Warrant Officer Norman T. Hatch was assigned to getting the work of the war correspondents to the seaplanes that landed regularly and took everything back to Guam for processing.
Lou Lowery died a bitter man, Hatch says. Lowery was the photographer for Leatherneck magazine who took the photo of the real flag that signaled the capture of Mt. Suribachi. But Lou Lowery did not get a picture of a flag-raising. He got a static photo of a flag after it was up, Hatch says. So the six men, including the IBEWs Charles Lindberg were denied their rightful place in historyboth then and for most of the next 56 years.
As an international wire service, the Associated Press and its photographers like Rosenthal had the highest priority in transmission of their work. Lowerys photo came back by pouch, a week and a half later.
A further controversy stirred when Rosenthal got to press headquarters on Guam. Did you stage a photo on Iwo?, he was asked. Yes, Rosenthal replied, because after the raising of the replacement, all the marines had gathered around it for the gung ho shot that was a tradition of the Marine Corps. But his flag-raising shot was not staged. If I had staged it, I probably would have messed it up by trying to get more of their faces, Rosenthal said.
Rosenthals photo also received such overwhelming praise and widespread reproduction because it was good news. There had been no good news from Iwo Jima for Americans, just four days of reports on the staggering losses.
Rosenthal won the Pulitzer Prize and Rep. Mike Mansfield (D-Montana) proposed on the House floor March 7 that the six Marines be featured in a War Bond drive. By April 20, three of the Marines in Rosenthals picturethe other three were killed in Iwo Jima were with President Harry S Truman in the Oval Office. The War Bond drive made them into household names.
Three of the Marines who raised the real flag were also killed on Iwo. The three who survived were ignored. But Charles Lindberg not only knew the whole story, he had the photos on these pages to prove it. History ignored him, all because of the the quality of two photos.
Retired IBEW Local 292 member Charles Lindberg. "It's taken a half century, but I think I've finally helped set the record straight" on who raised the flag on Iwo Jima.