When political correctness, in the name of diversity, tries to replace historical reality, it's divisive and self defeating

Before the issue becomes a national dividing rod, we certainly hope the proposal to include an Hispanic and a black firefighter in the proposed New Your World Trade Center statue, replicating the historic photo that was its inspiration, falls from grace. The original photograph depicts those who took part in that moment of time, and no others. The statue should do the same.

In this world of complex, socially correct initiatives, altering events of historical significance does not bode well for future historians.

Accepting facts as hard evidence into a court room where witnesses are under oath to tell the truth is a key ingredient in determining who is innocent or guilty. Our justice system would be awash in shame if judges knowingly allowed the police to change the facts of a case in order to justify an arrest (although that has happened more than it should). It would be perjury; a serious crime. Adding unknown faces to a statue to justify political correctness is no less a crime against reality.

Because the original photograph of the firefighters posting the American flag at the World Trade Center site has been compared and shown side-by-side with the United States Marines' 100-ton Iwo Jima bronze statue created by sculptor Felix de Weldon,  the following account represents reality of what took place on February 23, 1941. 

The statue is emblazoned with a plaque stating, 'Uncommon valor was a common virtue.' Those words spoke of the heroics of everyone in the battle, not the country of origin or race of those not appearing in the photograph.

Early on the morning of February 23, 1945, the fourth day after the assault landing on Iwo Jima, Lieutenant Colonel Chandler W. Johnson, commander of 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, ordered 1st Lt. Harold G. Schrier to take forty men and secure the top of Mount Suribachi. Johnson handed the lieutenant a small American flag to raise over the summit. 

The patrol, climbing cautiously, reached the windswept crater of the extinct volcano by mid-morning. Schrier, Platoon Sgt. Ernest I. Thomas, jr., Sgt. Henry O. Hansen, Cpl. Charles W. Lindberg, and PFCs Louis C. Charlo and James Michels quickly rigged the flag to a length of Japanese pipe and raised the colors. Staff Sgt. Louis R. Lowery, a combat photographer for Leatherneck magazine, who came up with the patrol, recorded the scene.

Two enemy soldiers emerged from hiding; others threw grenades from a large cave. The Marines disposed of the opposition, and Lowery, trying to get out of the line of fire, tumbled down a rocky slope and broke his camera. Both he and his film survived the fall.

The small flag - just 54 x 28 inches - raised by Lt. Harold Schrier's patrol was replaced by a larger one - 96 x 56 inches - from the LST 779 so it could be seen all over the island.

Upon receiving the larger flag, Lt. Col. Chandler W. Johnson directed a runner, PFC Rene A. Gagnon to deliver the flag to Schrier. Gagnon climbed with four other men of Company E - Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon H. Block, and Privates First Class Franklin R. Sousley and Ira A Hayes - who were laying communications wire to the top. They passed marines sealing caves and blowing up bunkers to silence the remaining opposition on the slopes. 

Three photojournalists - Staff Sgt. William H. Genaust, PFC Robert R. Campbell, and civilian Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press - had heard that a flag was to be raised and they set out to record the event. Half way up they met Lowery coming down. Lowery told them of the flag-raising.

When the three photographers reached the summit, they found five Marines and a Navy corpsman clustered along a length of pipe, preparing the larger flag to replace the first one.

Sgts. Strank and Hansen were killed in action on March 1, and PFC Sousley, on the 21st.

PlSgt Ernest "Boots" Thomas and SSgt William Genaust also would die before the violent battle came to a close.

Personal information on the six men who raised the flag:

Ira A. Hayes - A Pima Indian from a reservation in Arizona

Michael Strank - Son of Czech immigrants who lived and worked in the coal fields of Pennsylvania. Harlon H. Block - Worked in Texas oil fields

Franklin R. Sousley - Grew up on his grandfather's small Kentucky farm

Rene A. Gagnon - A New Englander of French-Canadian extraction

John H. Bradley - Apprentice to a Wisconsin funeral director

Bradley died in 1994, the last of the flag raisers.

The Iwo Jima marine Corps Memorial was dedicated on November 10, 1954 - the 179th anniversary of the Corps. The cost of the statue was $850,000 - paid for entirely by donations, with 96 percent of the total coming from Marines.

*Historical facts drawn from the book, The Marines, published by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.