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Harlon Block

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By Paul McDonnold, Dallas
Flag Day, June 14, commemorates the day in 1777 when the Stars and Stripes was adopted as the nation’s flag. Perhaps the most memorable flag-raising in U.S. history occurred in 1945 during the Battle of Iwo Jima. One of the six men in Joe Rosenthal’s famous photograph was a Texan, Marine Corporal Harlon H. Block of Weslaco, whose remains now lie at Harlingen’s Marine Military Academy. (shown above)
Upon graduating from Weslaco High in 1942, star football player Harlon Block, along with 12 other seniors from the team, enlisted in the Marine Corps. Three years later, Corporal Block climbed Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima as part of the team assigned to raise the Stars and Stripes, so that, as the squad’s leader put it, “Every Marine on this cruddy island can see it.” Photographer Joe Rosenthal spotted the group and, sensing an opportunity, positioned himself nearby. He was rewarded with what became the most-reproduced photograph in history.

In the photo, Harlon Block is on the far right, pushing the flagpole into the rocks. Less than a week later, Harlon died in combat. His role in the Iwo Jima campaign might have gone unknown (the military initially misidentified his image) had his mother not recognized him when the photo ran in the Weslaco newspaper.

Harlon Block was buried in Weslaco; in 1995, during a ceremony marking the Battle of Iwo Jima’s 50th anniversary, his body was reinterred near a sculpture of the Iwo Jima flag-raising at Harlingen’s Marine Military Academy. (This sculpture was the original working model for the bronze at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.). The academy’s adjacent museum (800/365-6006) houses World War II and other memorabilia and a gift shop.

Read 6577 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06

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