This photo? This Pulitzer prize winning photo by Joe Rosenthal, that was taken on February 23rd, 1945 on the island of Iwo Jima changed my life. How's that? Well as a young boy in the mid 1950's I saw this photo for the first time and it blew my young mind to the point where I can vividly recall staring at it. It was in a book that my father had. A Black and white book on WWII. My dad was a Veteran who served with the Fighting Seabees in the South Pacific. He fought on the Islands of Guam and Okinawa, and also in the Philippines. He saw his share of the war. But this photo? I can remember looking at it over and over again. I didn't know who they were, but I knew I wanted to be one of them. A United States Marine.
Back then and up until 2016, the men in the photo were 5 Marines Harlon
Block, Franklin Sousley, Michael Strank, Ira Hayes, and Rene Gagnon. The sixth man was Navy corpsman John Bradley. Bradley's son John Jr wrote a book about the Flag Raising. It was called FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS. I bought the book and read it. And so did Clint Eastwood. He liked it so much that he made a movie about it. He used the same title FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS. It was a great movie and a great book.
But then some Harvard Graduates
who were also history buffs started to do some research on the photo and the short 8mm movie that was taken at the same time. Turns out, the main figure in the photo was all wrong. The man who is second from the right was thought to be John Bradley was in fact, Franklin Sousley, and third man from the right was now identified as Harold Schultz. And just last month (October 2019) these same historians in a scene straight out of FORENSIC FILES identified that the Marine who was thought to be Rene Gagnon (from Manchester NH) was now Marine Harold "Pie" Keller. This is big news in the Marine Corps legacy department.
From 1945 to 2016 the world believed that the original Flag Raisers were the five Marines (Block, Sousley, Hayes, Strank, and Gagnon) and the one Navy Corpsman (Bradley). I grew up believing that as did every other marine on the planet who was around during those years. My late dear friend and brother marine George Masten and I went down to Quantico VA to visit the Marine Corps Museum. We just so happened to coordinate our visit to be in the museum on the 65th anniversary of the Flag Raising. We posed for a photo
in front of the actual flag. You can only imagine what it was like for me to see this Flag that I have been staring at for my entire life. The same with George. We were both humbled to be in it's presence.
And now to find out that both Bradley and Gagnon were not in this famous photo is numbing. Let me point out that both Bradley and Gagnon were there. John Bradley helped raise the first Flag. But that first flag was deemed to be too small and that the Marines who were still fighting (and would continue to fight for another 20 something days before the battle was over and the Island secured) could not see it. So Gagnon was given the larger second flag and went up with the patrol to the top of Suribachi to make sure the second bigger flag was raised. He was also given the First Flag to return it to the commanding officers on the beach. So both Bradley and Gagnon were there when the second Flag Raising happened.
Sadly, both the movie, and the book, was all wrong. Dead wrong.
But that shouldn't take away the incredible bravery that occurred on that Island for almost a month. Over 6,000 Marines were killed on Iwo Jima. And some 20,000 Japanese lost their lives there as well. Another unfortunate footnote is the families of Harold Schultz and Harold Keller never got the recognition that Bradley and Gagnon did. The photo still stands as the most iconic photo of the entire Second World War. And that's what sold me back in the 50's.
And that's what undoubtedly sold George to enlist in the Marine Corps.
George fought in both the
Korean War and the Vietnam War. He was wounded in 1967 in Vietnam. He was my mentor in the American Legion and
I could not have accomplished all that I did without his love and support.
I miss you George. You were a good friend and a great Marine. Semper Fi.
I can remember this day (below) like it was yesterday. It was on Veterans Day in 1996. My son Max and I stopped by my parents house to say hello. My dad had just finished up with his Veterans Day activities in his local community in Beverly MA. I had my camera with me so I had Max take a photo of me and my dad. He was standing in the kitchen when he snapped this pic. It remains one of my favorite photos of me and my dad together. God I miss him and my mother, along with my sister and nephew, and I really miss that house. I can still smell my mother's cooking. Happy Veterans Day dad!
And speaking of veterans. My father and all my uncles served in the military. That's both on my father's side and my mother's side. I also had three cousins who served. One of them was a door gunner on a HUEY in Vietnam. Bobby Sarno. He did two tours over there. After he came home from his second tour he was tragically killed in a car accident when someone ran a red light and hit him broadside. Turns out the driver of the other vehicle was a friend of his. Bobby was a great guitar player too. So there is a rich tradition of serving our country in my family.
Below is a photo of my late father-in-law, Cory's dad, Jerry Bunton. He served in the 101st
Airborne. He was something else. As a kid he grew up riding horses in the local rodeos and went on to jump out of airplanes. He ended up serving our country as one the unsung heroes of our times. Jerry did so much for our country and our fight against Terrorism. The world is less safer without him in it. He was a great father-in-law, a wonderful father to Cory, and a super grandfather to our 3 kids. Happy Veterans Day Jerry!
I can't even begin to tell you how much we appreciate Grandpa John Rastl (below). We are so very fortunate to have him still in our lives. We're all so proud of his service as a fighter Pilot in the AIR FORCE. He flew them all, from the F-4 Phantoms to the A-10 Wart Hogs. As a Grunt on the ground, I can tell you first hand how much we counted on those guys. They were the best. And knowing John, you would never know by his peaceful demeanor of his need for speed. I mean those guys like to go fast. As in super fast. Last year I had the distinct pleasure of being up in the mountains when two F-16's came roaring through the valley. I immediately thought about John. And I remember smiling to myself as I thought of John, and what it must take to pilot such an awesome machine.
Happy Veterans Day John!
We LOVE You!
With today being the 244th Marine Corps Birthday I wanted to run another favorite pic of mine. The five Marines pictured here is one of my fondest photos I own. From left to right is Warren White WWII, Donnie Walker Korea, George Masten Korea/Vietnam, Ralph Vietnam, and Colonel Lessard Korea/Vietnam. Donnie and I are the only two still living. We joke with each other now when we look at this photo. We're taking bets on who is going next. I love Donnie and I hope he's still with us next year.
So here I am (below). Fifty years a Marine. 1969 to 2019.
Happy 244th Birthday to all the Marines out there. Semper Fidelis.
And Happy Veterans Day to ALL the Vets who served in all the
branches of our military. Thank you All for your service.
"Surfing and Serving Our Country Heals Wounds."
Hey it's Veterans day and there's no way I'm not gonna post a pic of Ed in Vietnam. Ed was a medic in Vietnam. He was there from 1968 to 1969. He saved a lot of lives over there. I can't even begin to tell you what he did. Suffice it to say, he was a bona fide hero. The Grunts in his unit were lucky to have Ed as their "Doc". We used to joke all the time about Vietnam and the shit we both saw over there. I think of all the things we had in common, surfing, surf photography, and Vietnam, it's that Vietnam connection that I really miss.
Don't get me wrong, I have lots of Nam vets who are my friends, it's just that the combination of surfing and Vietnam was unique. And to be able to share that with Ed was like therapy for me. I don't mean to go on about this sort of thing, but this day only comes once a year, so let me get this out of my system, so I can get back to the surf and shooting the surf.
Ed was not a religious person. So I'm not gonna reference heaven or anything like that. But...I do secretly hope that he is somewhere, and that he is at peace, and maybe just maybe he is able to see this Blog and these musings I am putting down about him. So Rest in Peace Big Man. I miss you. We All Miss You.
Photo by Ed O'Connell
*Click the photo above to see a larger version of Ed's Pic.
Now for Some Local, National and International News
Last Saturday night, I was awarded the American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Silver Dollar coin for my unprecedented 13 years as Commander at Post 35 in Hampton, NH. Specifically, my spearheading the (only one of it's kind in the nation) "Global War On Terrorism Monument" as well as the Wounded Warriors HIT THE BEACH Surfing event every summer. It was a total surprise, and quite frankly, a humbling experience. That's our current Commander Berk Bennett presenting me with the award.
It's always nice to be surprised and recognized. So having said that, last night I was the guest speaker at the 244th USMC Marine Corps Ball. And after my speech I was awarded with a Distinguished service award and a nice plaque for being the guest speaker. It truly was a week of humbling experiences.
The 244th Marine Corps Birthday is tonight SUNDAY NOVEMBER 10th. As always, we celebrate the Birthday with all the local Seacoast Marines. This year we will be remembering two of our local Hampton marines we lost in the last year. Warren White a WWII vet and Joe Collins a IRAQ vet. If you know of any local Marines let them know about this gathering. Semper Fi Marines!
Click on the image above to see a larger version of it.
ESM (Eastern Surf Magazine) using a READY MAG format did the Best of Ralph's Pic. And while they couldn't possibly use everything thing I've ever done, they did manage to put up some 50 pics of mine, plus two videos. And I was truly humbled by their intro. Mez said some nice things about me. CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO SEE THE WHOLE Spread.
COMING FATHER'S DAY 2020.
While I was making the GRANITE GIRLS video I came up with this project and concept. It's never been done before. As hard as that seems to be. I'm onto yet another never been done before Surf Movie concept. This will be an overview of Surfer dads and their sons. It's a work in progress and I'm hoping to get as many dads and their sons as possible in this movie.
The DVD's are available at all the local surf shops. Or by
sending me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org or send a check for $20.00 made out to ADLANTIC and send it here:
c/o OC Studio Suites
703 Ocean Blvd Suite C-4
Hampton, NH 03842
Or RENT or BUY it Online. You have spoken and I have listened. You don't have a DVD player so I made it available Online. Watch it on your Smart TV, your computer, or your cellphone! I can't make this any easier my friends.
GRANITE GIRLS and The RIVER WOMEN from Ralph's Pic Of The Week on Vimeo.
NOW AVAILABLE on VIMEO ON DEMAND.
KSM Photoshop of the Week
This week's photoshop of KSM seems appropriate. I mean it is after all Veterans Day weekend. So I figured ole Khaliddy would want to be featured with some of his brother vets. Though it does appear that these scumbags have had their last go around as terrorists. This is what happens when terrorists engage Marines in a firefight. You lose. Like you KSM. A loser.
And so my friends, please take advantage of this weekly photo shop of the mastermind who planned 9-11 and resulted in the deaths of 3,000 innocent civilians by KSM (Khalid Sheik Mohammed).
*Note to self -must pick up a case of "GOOD WILL USED CLOTHING" at Home Depot this week.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY George Masten November 9th, 2019.
HAPPY 244th BIRTHDAY to The USMC November 10th, 2019!
HAPPY VETERANS DAY November 11th, 2019!
RIP Allan Rogers.
PLEASE Keep longtime NH Surfer Greg Smith in your Prayers.
Lenny Nichols & Colin Madden
Co-Directors, NNE District
Eastern Surfing Association
Support ALL The photographers who contribute to
Ralph's Pic Of The Week every week for the last 13 years.
** BUY a HIGH RES Photo
from any of the weeks on RPOTW.
my friends... Surfing Heals All Wounds.
Pray for Surf. Pray for Peace. Surf For Fun.