The next four days after the flag raising, the Marines start thinking that the battle is over, but they still remain alert for any Japanese soldiers in their midst. Rene Gagnon, Franklin Sousley, and Jack Bradley all take the time to write letters to their family about the events at Iwo Jima. Americans only know about the action based on what’s printed on the newspaper, horrified at the atrocities experienced by their boys compared to those in the European front.
The AP Photo Editor in Guam, John Bodkin sees the photograph that Joe Rosenthal took and immediately radiophotos the photo to their headquarters in New York. The photo gets published the next day, February 25th, Sunday. The photo lifts the American populace’s moods. Even though the boys in the photo haven’t been identified yet, Joe Rosenthal becomes an instant celebrity because of it. Bella Block immediately recognizes her son, Harlon from the photo, but her son Ed Jr. tells her otherwise.
The New York Times began printing out fabricated stories about how the boys endured endless firefights during their ascent to the top of the mountain and how they raised the flag under great stress. In reality, the flag raising did not symbolize the end of fighting, but it only meant that the Easy Company’s sector is secured. A few nights later, inside a foxhole, Mike Strank divulges to Tex Stanton that he was sure that he’d certainly die in Iwo Jima.
Notes: The photo that held so much importance for patriotism will begin to put the flag raisers under distress during the coming months.
Even though the American flag was already raised, the battle in Iwo Jima continues on for the next four weeks. Mike Strank dies when a shell exploded while he was drawing an escape route for his men in the sand. Harlon Block ends up taking Mike’s place as the squad leader. The 28th Division tries to move without any cover, leaving them unable to move during some periods of time. Doc Bradley watches Hank Hansen dies in his arms while trying to save him from a bullet wound in his abdomen. Not long after the events, Harlon Block perishes, even though his letter for his mother stating that he’s doing fine is yet to leave the island.
The Easy Company is tasked to make their way through a series of stony ridges where Japanese soldiers are firing at them. An explosion on March 3rd, along with seven other officers from the 28th Division, kills colonel Chandler Johnson. Later during the same day, Sergeant Boots Thomas dies from a gunshot wound through the face while on a telephone call. The next day, March 4th, marks the first time an American plane made an emergency landing on the island of Iwo Jima, reminding the Marines what they were fighting for.
On the same day, Joe Rosenthal lands in Guam and gets interviewed. He was asked if he staged the photo in Iwo Jima, to which he answers with “Sure,” not knowing which photograph the question was pertaining to. The rumors start spreading that Rosenthal staged the photograph. Time magazine starts fueling the rumors by broadcasting on their radio show about how the photograph was staged. Rosenthal demands an apology from Time, which he gets. However, the photograph will end up frustrating him in the future. While the Marines were still fighting in Iwo Jima, Time magazine publishes the photo on their front page on March 5th as if the battle has already been won.
Easy Company finally made their way to the western beaches of the island. They all take a break and go swimming by the shore. Doc Bradley gets troubled with the fact that Ralph Ignatowski has gone missing. On March 8th, his body is found inside a cave. It was revealed that he was tortured for three days before dying, leaving Doc Bradley to clean up whatever remains of Iggy. Despite the psychological scar left by Iggy’s death, Doc continues to do his duties as a corpsman with great dedication, which impressed Dave Severence.
For the first time since the battles started, Rene Gagnon finally fired his rifle at a Japanese who killed his buddy. Soon after the event, he was asked to help in the identification of the men in the photograph of the flag raising. He mistakes Harlon Block for Hank Hansen and doesn’t notice Ira Hayes’ participation in the photograph. Tex Stanton gets taken out of Iwo Jima after he loses both his feet in an explosion. Franklin Sousley dies after he wanders off into an open road and gets shot. The deaths among the boys start to discourage and frustrate Captain Severence. By March 26th, the Easy Company finally departs from Iwo Jima. From being 310 men strong, they’re now down to only 50 survivors. Despite losing more men than the Japanese, the Americans finally have control of the island.
Notes: The way some of them did and witnessed some things for the first time was important in painting a vivid picture of the final weeks of the Marines in Iwo Jima.