Retired marine whose troops planted US flag on Iwo Jima dies

National News

Dave Severance, a retired U.S. Marine colonel whose troops were the first to plant an American flag over the Japanese island of Iwo Jima during World War II, is seen at his home in San Diego on May 20, 2015. Severance, 102, died Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, at his home in the San Diego suburb of La Jolla, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Dave Severance, the Marine company commander whose troops planted the American flag on Iwo Jima during World War II, a moment captured in one of the most iconic war photographs in history, has died. He was 102.

Severance died Monday at his home in the San Diego suburb of La Jolla, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Severance’s company came ashore in the 10th wave of what eventually would be about 70,000 Marines invading the island, about 660 miles (about 1,000 kilometers) south of Tokyo. They were met by some 20,000 Japanese.

On Feb. 23, 1945, the fifth day of fighting, about 40 members of Severance’s company were sent up Mount Suribachi with orders to plant the flag. When Navy Secretary James Forrestal, arrived on the island, he asked for it to be kept as a memento.

After it was removed, Severance ordered a second group of Marines to replace the flag with a bigger one. The second raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi was captured in a dramatic photo by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal who won a Pulitzer Prize.

The Marines would keep the first flag, and the Navy secretary would get the replacement, which flew over Mount Suribachi for the rest of the battle. Both flags are now at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va.

Severance spent his retirement quietly trying to set the record straight that there were two flag-raisings that February morning in 1945.

He cared about the flag story, he told the Union-Tribune in a 2012 interview, because it spoke to the courage and sacrifice he witnessed every day for more than a month during the battle, one of the bloodiest of the war. About 75 percent of his company were wounded or killed.

Severance earned a Silver Star.

Born Feb. 4, 1919, in Milwaukee, Severance grew up in Colorado and joined the Marines in 1938.

After leading Marines in WWII, he went on to fly nearly 70 missions in Korea as an aviator.

He retired from the Marine Corps in 1968.

His death was first reported Wednesday by The New York Times, which attributed the information about his passing to his family.

Survivors include two daughters, Nina Cohen and Lynn Severance; two sons, Dave Jr. and Mike Severance; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by his second wife, Barbara, who died in 2017.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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