EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - An East Texan fought on a Japanese-held island 76 years ago, where an iconic image of history was captured.
Wednesday, February 23 marked the anniversary of one of the most iconic pictures ever taken during World War II.
U.S. Marines raised the flag on the island of Iwo Jima and it became the symbol of American grit and a legendary image of the Marine Corps.
As marines stormed ashore on Iwo Jima in February 1945, then 17-year-old East Texan James Krodell was among them.
“We didn’t know where we were going when we left Guam. They were shelling the beach at Iwo Jima and we were lucky we weren’t shot. My best buddy, my buddy had got killed,” Krodell says.
Krodell was wounded, spent time in a first aid tent, then returned to the front lines.
“I got shrapnel in my knee. Medic stopped the bleeding, bandaged it up, told me the front line was right over there,” he says.
He was there to see that moment when the 5th Marine Division raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi.
“Horn started blowing and we saw the flag up there, we thought the Japanese had surrendered. It wasn’t that easy. Tough? Yes sir, they was. I had nightmares after I got out,” says James.
The battle raged for weeks before Iwo Jima was secured.
Krodell still has a cigarette lighter he carried which was hit by a bullet that reminds him of the fight.
“I had it in my shirt pocket,” he says.
The battle of Iwo Jima officially ended March 26, but for Krodell the image of that flag will always be burned into his memory.
“I admire the men that raised that flag. When they say freedom is free, it’s not! Because you see how many men have lost their lives,” James says.
6,821 Americans lost their lives on Iwo Jima, with Japanese deaths estimated at over 18,000.
76 years later, Krodell has never received a Purple Heart for being wounded in action.