It’s one of the most iconic images of all time, inspiring a monument in Washington, D.C., movies, and generations of patriots — and Feb. 23 is the 66th anniversary of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima.


It’s one of the most iconic images of all time, inspiring a monument in Washington, D.C., movies, and generations of patriots — and Feb. 23 is the 66th anniversary of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima.
The image of Iwo Jima lives on, though few remember the day it was created.
“It’s great to remember it, but a lot of younger people don’t realize these days,” said WWII veteran Al Terrones of Newton. “You have to read and know history. ... You have to know what the people of this country went through.”
It’s a day Gerald Rogers, 86, of Newton will never forget.
“It was feeling you can’t explain,” Roger said.
Rogers was in the Air Force Signal Corps, working in a field putting in telephone cable in Burma when the radio began to crackle to life.
The news came over his homemade radio troops had raised the flag on Iwo Jima. His crew finished their work, then headed back to the base.
“The whole base was celebrating,” Rogers said. “It meant we were close to everything being over with. The guys all thought we were close to going home.”
The battle did not end on Feb. 23, though it was a key day. After three days of fighting, Saribachi, a key in the Japanese defense of the island, fell.
Iwo Jima is a small island in the Pacific — just more than 4.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. It is south of the main Japanese island of Honshu.
Despite the size, the island was a strategic target — hosting a pair of airstrips the Japanese were able to use to target U.S. air forces on their way to Japan.
Iwo Jima proved to be a difficult and bloody target for U.S. forces. The Marines lost 6,891 men, with more than 18,070 wounded. According to historical reports, there were more than 22,000 Japanese soldiers on the island, with only 212 taken prisoner.
Terrones was in the infantry, and though he did not storm the beaches of Iwo Jima, he was part of a beach invasion during WWII. He and his peers were part of the force invading France, and when asked he can offer insights to what it was like to storm a beach during WWII.
His platoon was up against a stout defense — German soldiers who were firing at anything, or anyone, that moved from the safety of concrete bunkers.
“You should have seen the bodies,” Terrones said. “They looked like fish floating in the water.”
Terrones spoke of jumping from a troop transport into neck-deep water, charging to the beach. He spoke of hundreds of men losing their lives as U.S. forces took control of the beach — by throwing grenades into small openings in German bunkers.
Eventually U.S. forces took the beach, though losses were heavy.
“I remember when they slaughtered about two platoons of us,” Terrones said.
Terrones continued to serve in France, until he was wounded during an ambush in 1944. He nearly lost his left leg, though a doctor was able to save it.
When the invasion of Iwo began, Terrones was stateside, in a hospital recovering from wounds that initially left him paralyzed. He now can walk, though with a limp and a cane.
The island was declared secure March 16, 1945, with all resistance ceasing by March 26.