US Marine who commanded unit pictured in iconic Iwo Jima photograph dies, aged 102

US Marine who commanded unit pictured in iconic Iwo Jima photograph dies, aged 102
Col Severance, who was awarded with a Silver Star for his service at Iwo Jima, dies at 102

Colonel Dave Severance, the commander of an American marine company who raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi at the Japanese island of Iwo Jima during the Second World War, has died at the age of 102 at his home in the La Jolla area of San Diego.

The news was confirmed by his family on Wednesday.

An iconic photograph of the moment that was clicked by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, became a symbolic image of the Second World War.

Col Severance, who commanded the Easy Company of the 28th Marine Regiment during the war, is survived by two daughters Nina Cohen and Lynn Severance, two sons, Dave Jr and Mike, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Col Severance served in the marines for three decades and held the rank of Captain during the Second World War. He was one of the 70,000 marines who tried to gain control of Iwo Jima, a volcanic island about 750 miles from Japan’s mainland, during the war in 1945. The effort to take control of the island was to secure a base for American fighter planes.

The island was defended by 21,000 Japanese troops because of which the marines suffered heavy casualties. Col Severance’s battalion was assigned to secure the mountain top of Mount Suribachi.

Rosenthal captured the moment six marines, led by Col Severance, mounted a giant American flag at the mountain top on 23 February 1945, to replace a smaller flag that was already planted by the marines.

It was the image of this flag, clicked by Rosenthal, that remains one of the most iconic photos from the war.

The battle of Iwo Jima was far from over at that point. The photo, however, struck an emotional chord and was on the front page of all the newspapers, including becoming a symbol of Iwo Jima, the Marine Corps and American pride.

In an interview in February 2021 with Coffee or Die magazine, Col Severance said he did not realise how iconic the photograph had become in the US, until the 1949 film The Sands of Iwo Jima came out.

“It wasn’t until 1949, when The Sands of Iwo Jima came out, I realised the impact that moment and battle had on the nation,” he said.

He was awarded with the Silver Star for his service at Iwo Jima. Col Severance afterwards flew more than 60 combat missions during the Korean War and was an assistant personnel director at the marine corps headquarters in Arlington, before retiring as a full colonel in 1968.

Almost 7,000 Marines died on Iwo Jima, according to the National World War II Museum, with another 20,000 wounded.

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