Ann Arbor war veteran joining ceremony for Iwo Jima flag-raiser
By WILLIAM B.TREML
NEWS STAFF REPORTER
Ann Arbor’s Joe Rodriguez, who served with the Marines appearing in the famous photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima during World War II, is scheduled to take part Sunday in a special ceremony in Kentucky, honoring one of the men seen in the picture.
Rodriguez, born and raised in Ann Arbor, was a comrade of Franklin Sousley of Ewing, Ky., when Sousley and five companions were frozen in action for posterity in the classic Joe Rosenthal picture of the raising of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi. The figures in the photograph were reproduced in stone in a huge monument north of Arlington National Cemetery near Washington. The monument was dedicated in 1954.
On Sunday afternoon, a collection of rocks and sand brought from Iwo Jima will be presented to Sousley’s mother, Goldie Mitchell Sousley Price, during ceremonies at the Rupp Basketball Arena in Lexington. The rocks and sand will be embedded in an eight-foot-high monument placed at Sousley’s grave near Elizaville in northern Kentucky. The monument, costing $16,000 raised through private contributions, will contain a carving of the Mount Suribachi flag-raising scene and the names of the six Marines in the picture. The monument will be dedicated on June 3. Only one of the six Marines in the photograph is living. Three of the six were killed in action shortly after the picture was taken. The lone survivor is John Bradley, a medical corpsman, now a mortician in northern Wisconsin. He has been invited to the June 3 dedication.
Rodriguez, who appears in one of the Rosenthal’s pictures taken atop Mount Suribachi moments before the historic photograph was snapped, raised funds in Washtenaw County for the Sousley monument.
The Ann Arbor man man has kept in touch during recent months with Sousley’s elderly mother, Mrs. Price, and retired Marine Corps Sgt. S.T. White, the Kentucky native who launched the campaign to erect a monument at the grave. White discovered Sousley’s grave more than a year ago and was angered that only a small, government-issued headstone marked the site.
“I was shocked that a young man who helped inspire a nation through that photograph was so unnoticed in death. I vowed to do something about it,” White said.
He contacted Mrs. Price and then sent out appeals in Marine Corps publications for funds to erect a fitting memorial for Sousley. White’s aim was to raise $16,000. That goal was surpassed by $4,000. The surplus will be used to maintain the gravesite.
Sousley was a 19-year-old rifleman in the Fifth Marine Division when the flag was raised on Feb. 19, 1945. He never lived to see the Rosenthal photograph. On March 21, less than a week before Iwo Jima was finally secured, he was shot in the back by a Japanese sniper while running across an open space at Kitano Point on the north end of the island.