February 23, 2010

Another Indian at Iwo Jima

Apparently Ira Hayes (Pima) wasn't the only Indian present at the flag-rising on Iwo Jima during World War II.

Song honors soldier who raised Iwo Jima flag

By Kim BriggemanThe focus on Louis Charlo, when there's a focus at all, is how he helped raise the first flag on Iwo Jima and how he died there.

There is so much more to the story, and Jack Gladstone is determined to tell it.

"This is a coming out of the bear's den for this grizzly," Montana's Native "PoetSinger" from Kalispell and the Blackfeet Indian Nation said last week.

Gladstone is making an epic cut he calls "Remembering Private Charlo" into an 11-minute, 45-second centerpiece for his first new CD in seven years, one he's calling "Native Anthropology."

On Tuesday, the 65th anniversary of the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi on the tiny Japanese island in the South Pacific, Gladstone will be in the second day of a recording session in Tucson, Ariz. He'll be working with the likes of Montana virtuoso David Griffith and Will Clipman, a percussionist-drummer for Native flutist R. Carlos Nakai. Clipman, like Nakai, is a multi-Grammy nominee.
Charlo's history as Gladstone tells it:The battle, which involved more than 100,000 U.S. and Japanese warriors, would last another 31 days after the first flag and then a second, larger and more famous, were planted. More than 6,800 Americans died, as did all 22,000 Japanese defenders.

On the morning of Feb. 23, "Chuck" Charlo was one of four men selected to scale the island's tallest feature, Mount Suribachi, in what many saw as a suicidal mission. They made it unscathed.

Gladstone has meticulously researched the battle and Charlo's part in it--"I probably know more than I emotionally should be allowed to know without having been there," he said.

The four-man squad then retreated down the slopes, but later in the day joined a 40-man platoon that went back up. There's debate about whether Charlo physically helped plant the first flag. Gladstone is convinced he was, based on a conversation with Chuck Lindberg.
Comment:  Wikipedia notes several men involved in the first flag-raising but doesn't mention Charlo. Another site says:On the morning of February 23, the fifth day of fighting, Sergeant Sherman Watson led a four-man scouting patrol up the mountain. The patrol reached the top and ventured a look inside the old volcano’s crater without encountering enemy resistance. To secure the mountain, a forty-man platoon was ordered to the top; among them was Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class John H. “Doc” Bradley. First Lieutenant H. “George” Schrier, Easy Company XO and former Raider, lead the platoon. Lt. Col. Johnson, Battalion XO, gave Schrier a small flag (54x28 inches) from the USS Missoula, to hoist on top of the volcano. Without resistance, the platoon reached the top in approximately forty minutes at 10:00 a.m.

Once there; Lt. Schrier, Plt. Sgt. Ernest I. “Boots” Thomas, Sgt. Henry Hansen, Cpl Charles W. Lindberg (a flame thrower) attached the flag to the pole while PFC James Michels (or Michaels) held the pole and PFC Raymond Jacobs, radioman from Fox Company, looked on. At 10:20 five men raised the first flag. Four of the flag raisers were Schrier, Thomas, Hansen and Lindberg. The fifth flag raiser is unclear. Some sources reported either Michels or PFC Louis Charlo as the fifth man. Others report six original flag raisers, which include both Michels and Charlo.
On the one hand, I think it's good to use historical moments like this to highlight the contributions of Natives. On the other hand, I don't think it's good to fetishize people as heroes. Charlo was one man in a 40-man platoon and he may not have raised the flag. You could sing a song for the entire platoon, but I'm not sure there's any reason to single out Charlo.

For more on the subject, see Flags of Our Father.

Below:  Lowery's most widely circulated picture of the first flag raising.

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