26 April 2012


by Andy Weddington
Friday, 27 April 2012

"I pledge allegiance to the flag

                             and my heart to my Marine who protects it." SUV rear window

Ed--whom you likely don't know, but know the likes of--died Tuesday, 17 April 2012, in Palms Springs, California. More about him shortly.

Sixty-seven years ago, on Friday, 23 February 1945, Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press combat correspondent serving with Marines in the South Pacific, snapped what became one of the most (if not the most) famous photographs in American history (in some minds, world history).

Mr. Rosenthal, in 1/400th-second, as luck had it, fortuitously froze an instant of unscripted movement--five U. S. Marines and a U. S. Navy corpsman raising our Stars and Stripes atop Mount Suribachi on the tiny atoll of Iwo Jima.

That the image ever made it to print is a story, and miracle, in and of itself. But it did. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Within days, Mr. Rosenthal's photograph, reflecting the indominatable American fighting spirit, was plastered on the front page of newspapers, big photos above the fold, across our land. Not only did the six flagraisers become instant heroes and celebrities of sort but so did Joe Rosenthal--winning the Pulitzer Prize for Photography the same year his image was published. 

A stunning, inspiring, monstrous bronze--formally known as the 'Marine Corps War Memorial,' sculpted by Felix de Weldon, in the early 50s, from Joe Rosenthal's photograph--rests atop hallowed ground in Arlington, Virginia, just outside the walls of Arlington National Cemetery. If you've never seen it, make it a "must stop" next time visiting Washington.

The works of Mr. Rosenthal and Mr. de Weldon are synonymous with the Marine Corps. Simple as that.

Now, to the character whom you likely don't know but know the likes of.

Who is Ed?

Ed Glennon, Edward Vincent Glennon, born 22 September 1925, was a teenager, a young enlisted Marine, assigned to Company A, 5th Engineer Battalion, 5th Marine Division. He fought on Iwo Jima.

Tens of thousands of Japanese were killed. Thousands of Americans were killed and thousands more wounded. Ed was awarded the Purple Heart. 

Like most reading this short story, I never had the pleasure of meeting Ed. And, so, I don't know much about him.

Fact is, I stumbled upon a 2 inches by 1 1/2 inches notice of his death on page B3--'Military Briefs'--of the Sunday, 22 April edition of 'The Desert Sun'--the Coachella Valley newspaper published in Palm Springs. One inch by 3/4 inch of the space was a candid snapshot of a smiling Ed.


Sitting on the sofa with a cup of coffee and switching attention between the paper and morning news on television, it struck me terribly ironic the contrast between the initial printing of Mr. Rosenthal's photograph on the front page of newspapers and sixty-seven years later an unassuming hero of that bloody battle merits only minor attention well inside the B Section of the Sunday paper.

Most likely, Ed would have been just fine with that; true heroes are ever so humble.

Seven pages later, page B10, there was an obituary for Ed. In short, he was a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. He had a career and was active in his community. He tinkered in the garage--an invention or two to his credit. He attended 5th Marine Division reunions, was active in the Marine Corps League, and was a member of the American Legion. By all accounts, Ed Glennon was a solid citizen--a man anyone would be privileged to call friend.

What I know most about Ed Glennon is he was a Marine. And somehow he managed to survive one of the most awful battles of World War II. He did his duty. A line in his obituary read, "He was exceedingly proud to be a member of the United States Marine Corps..." A title for life, what Marine isn't?!  

Ed died, peacefully at home, losing the fight in another battle--against cancer. Rest in peace, Marine.

So yet another Marine, faithful to country and Corps, quietly moves on. Though only earning a small note of public notice, his sacrifices not forgotten--for that iconic flagraising image, a prideful national battle scar for the ages, ever our reminder.

Many a book has been penned about the battle for Iwo Jima. Two exceptional works well worth the time come to mind. 'Flags of Our Fathers' by James Bradley. Bradley is the son of Petty Officer John Bradley--the sole Sailor amongst the flagraisers. And, 'The Lions of Iwo Jima' by Major General Fred Haynes, USMC, and James A. Warren. Haynes, then a captain, fought with Regimental Combat Team 28 (part of the 5th Marine Division) on Iwo Jima. Fair warning, both are difficult reading.

Semper Fidelis. 

Post Script

The flagraisers: Sergeant Michael Strank, USMC; Corporal Harlon Block, USMC; Private First Class Franklin Sousley, USMC; Private First Class Rene Gagnon, USMC; Private First Class Ira Hayes, USMC; Petty Officer John Bradley, USN.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In an era when we need more Eds, we have fewer everyday. Missed but never forgotten.