LA JOLLA, California: 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 at the age of 102.
Severance died on Monday at his home in La Jolla, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Severance's company came ashore 660 miles south of Tokyo, where they were met by some 20,000 Japanese troops. On 23rd February, 1945, about 40 members of Severance's company were sent up Mount Suribachi to plant the flag, but when Navy Secretary James Forrestal arrived on the island, he asked for it to be kept as a memento.
After being removed, Severance ordered a second group of Marines to replace the flag with a larger one. The second raising of the flag was captured in a dramatic photograph by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, who won a Pulitzer Prize for capturing the historic photograph.
Both flags are now at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia.
Severance spent his retirement quietly telling the story that there were two flags raised on Iwo Jima.
In a 2021 interview, he told the Union-Tribune he cared about the flag story because it highlighted the courage and sacrifice he witnessed daily during the battle. About 75 percent of his company were wounded or killed. Severance was later awarded the Silver Star.
Severance was born on 4th February, 1919, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up in Colorado. He joined the Marines in 1938.
After leading Marines in WWII, he went on to complete nearly 70 missions in Korea as an aviator. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1968.
His death was first reported on Wednesday by the New York Times. He is survived by two daughters, Nina Cohen and Lynn Severance; two sons, Dave Jr. and Mike Severance; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His second wife, Barbara, died in 2017.