Strank, Michael.

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Strank, Michael, born 11-11-1915 in Jarabine, Chechoslovakia  was a World War II United States Marine. He was one of the five Marines and one Sailor to be photographed raising the second United States flag on Mount Suribachi during the February-March 1945 Battle for Iwo Jima island. It is but a speck of an island 760 miles south of Tokyo, a volcanic pile that blocked the Allies’ march toward Japan. The Americans needed Iwo Jima as an air base, but the Japanese had dug in. U.S. troops landed on 19-02-1945, beginning a month of fighting that claimed the lives of 6,800 Americans and 21,000 Japanese.

The event was captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, and became one of the most famous pictures in history. Rosenthal die very old age of 95 in 2006.

  The Russian photographer Yevgeni Chaldej  took inspiration from this photo two months later. He then photographed a Russian soldier planting the red flag on the Berlin Reichstag. This statue became a symbol of the fall of the Third Reich.

Strank’s Ruthenian family immigrated to America in 1920, changing their family name to Strank, and passing through Ellis Island to Franklin Borough, His siblings – brothers Petro/Peter and John, sister Mary – were born in the United States.

Pennsylvania, about two miles east of Johnstown, where his father found work in the coal mines that feed the steel mills there. Growing up in America, he quickly learned English, having a photographic mind. Graduating from high school in June 1937, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) a month later, rather than follow his father into the mines or to the steel mills. At the end of two years, in October 1939, he enlisted into the United States Marine Corps , having developed a liking for military discipline in the CCC. Later, his fellow marines would often describe him as a “Marine’s Marine”- he was always there for them, leading them in the task they had to do, leading his men by personal example. After boot camp at Parris Island, he was assigned to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then returned to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he was promoted to Corporal. In February 1942, he was promoted to Sergeant and assigned to the 1st Marine Raiders , considered one of the toughest Marine outfits at that time, and fought at Pavuvu and Bougainville in the 3rd Marine Division, nickname “Figthing Third”  . During the war, a total of 8.078 men, including 7.710 Marines and 368 sailors, were assigned to Raider units. Raiders received a total of seven Medals of Honor and 136 Navy Crosses. Next their casualties during all campaigns.

CampaignKIADOWWIAMIAPDTOTAL
officerenlistedofficerenlistedofficerenlistedofficerenlisted
Guadalcanal306444601101,8523332,736
Cape Gloucester192451494077501241,253
Peleliu66964182323015,1493436,776
Okinawa561,036131493116,094067,665
TOTALS1712,8893649076213,870620618,430

Following Bougainville and a 30-day leave, he was reassigned to the newly forming 5th Marine Division, nickname “Spearhead”  at Camp Pendleton, California, becoming a part of E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment , which was slated for the upcoming invasion of Iwo Jima. The invasion force of 70,000 marines landed on 19-02-1945, on the south side of the island, with Sergeant Strank landing at Green Beach, closest to Mount Suribachi. On the fourth day of the invasion, the Marines captured Mount Suribachi and raised an American flag. Just after noon on 23-02-1945, Sergeant Strank, Corporal Harlon Block, Private Rene Gagnon, Private Ira Hayes, Private Franklin Sousley and United States Navy Corpsman John Bradley planted a larger, more easily seen flag. Although none of them thought anything extraordinary about that flag raising, photographer Rosenthal had gotten a series of pictures of it, and it was also filmed by Marine cameraman Bill Genaust.

 When those pictures were published, the image of the six men became one of the most iconic of the entire conflict and won Joe Rosenthal the Pulitzer Prize.

Death and burial ground of Strank, Michael.

 

On February 28, Sergeant Strank and E Company moved northward. Fighting was heavy, and both the Japanese and the American forces were taking heavy casualties. On March 1, Sergeant Strank’s rifle squad came under heavy fire and took cover. While forming a plan of attack, he was killed by friendly artillery fire. The shell that killed him was almost certainly fired from offshore by an American ship. Corporal Harlon Block,

Block, Harlan Henry Sergeant Strank’s assistant squad leader, took command of the squad. Corporal Block was killed later on the same day by a Japanese mortar shell. However, former Marine Ralph “Pee Wee” Griffiths of Second Platoon, Easy Company, said that Sergeant Strank and Corporal Block were on both sides of him on March 1 and were killed by the same shell which wounded him. Sergeant Strank and the other Marines killed in action of the 28th Regiment were buried in the 5th Marine Division Cemetery on the island with the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church. Sergeant Strank (and possibly Corporal Block) was the first person in Rosenthal’s flag raising photograph to be killed. On 13-01-1949, his remains were reinterred in Grave 7179, Section 12, Arlington National Cemetery.

Sergeant Strank’s brother, Peter Strank, was serving aboard the aircraft carrier  in the South Pacific when Sgt. Strank was killed

 

 

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