Two Flags over Iwo Jima

Solving the Mystery of the U.S. Marine Corps' Proudest Moment

Eric Hammel

The full story of the lead up to and aftermath of the iconic raising of the American flag by the 28th Marine Regiment on Iwo Jima in 1945, using recent investigations to show what really happened.
Date Published :
October 2018
Publisher :
Illustration :
96 black and white photos
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612006291
Pages : 222
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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The saga of the flags on Iwo Jima has fascinated America for decades. Hammel himself grew up in the company of WWII veterans and has always been intrigued by ‘The Photo’ of the flag, which became a powerful symbol of patriotism and national pride. But the story of how the flag got there, and even the identity of the soldiers in the photo, has been muddied by history. Eric Hammel here sets the record straight, viewing complex events through the lens of the story of the infantry company in which all the flag raisers served.

Joe Rosenthal’s “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” photo is one of the best-known images of US war history. The photo captures the moment that the first American flag flew over the core of Imperial Japanese territory on the top of Mount Suribachi. The focus of this book lies on the 28th Marine Regiment’s self-contained battle in February 1945 for Mount Suribachi, the 556-foot-high volcano on Iwo Jima. It was here that this one regiment defeated more than 1500 heavily armed Japanese combatants who were determined to hold the highest vantage point on the island.

Two Flags over Iwo Jima reveals the all-but-forgotten first-flag raising, and the aftermath of the popularization campaign undertaken by the post-WWII Marine Corps and national press. Hammel attempts to untangle the various battles which led up to the first and second flag raisings, as well as following the men of the 28th Marine Regiment in the events which took place after. Not only is the full story behind one of the most iconic photographs ever taken revealed, but also the real heroism and stories of the men behind this most fervent expression of American patriotism.

About The Author

Eric Hammel’s passion for writing military history books began when he was twelve years old. He established a formidable reputation as an author and journalist, with forty books and nearly seventy magazine articles to his name. A particular specialty was the U.S. Marine Corps at war, and he appeared in numerous television documentaries on Marine Corps operations in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Beirut. Eric Hammel passed in September 2020.


"Of all the well-documented contributions to the history of WW II in the Pacific, none has a more heartfelt narrative, combining deep understanding and sensitive perception than "Two Flags Over lwo Jima."”

- Leatherneck, October 2018

"There’s a wealth of details here; Hammel expertly weaves all of these elements together to deliver an authoritative look at an event that has taken on a legendary status. “That moment on top of Mount Suribachi more than 70 years ago will still hold a special place in the hearts of Marines and in the history of the Corps regardless of who raised the flag,” he concludes, in this essential history for those wanting the truth behind the legend."

- Publisher's Weekly, October

"Most Americans have seen the iconic photograph of Old Glory being raised on Mount Suribachi on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima during WWII, yet confusion and controversy have surrounded the event and the photograph ever since it was taken. Renowned military historian Hammel’s concise and matter-of-fact book breaks down every aspect of what happened during the battle to the summit of the volcano with precision and objectivity. The reader is then taken on a detective’s journey, exploring how the photo became so significant for the war effort and the hunt for the identities of the marines depicted. Hammel includes new evidence on the “mystery man” with the flag-raising marines, information that was primarily gathered by amateur historians over the internet, as well as extensive photographs, award citations, and primary-document appendixes for further exploration. Two Flags Over Iwo Jima is part narrative and part legal brief and entirely valuable and worthwhile, an exciting testament to the unfinished chronicling we call history."

- Booklist

"A richly illustrated account of one of the most iconic moments in World War II. Military historian Hammel (War in the Western Pacific, 2014, etc.) begins with his own first awareness of Joe Rosenthal's famous photo of the flag-raising, which became the inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial sculpture. In a brief prologue, the author tells how the flag came to be raised not once but twice. He then circles back to the battle, beginning with the decision to take the volcanic island, which would give the U.S. a base for its heavy bombers within striking distance of the enemy homeland as well as capturing an integral part of the Japanese empire, an important symbolic victory. Unlike other battles in which the Japanese fought in mass "banzai" attacks, their plan here was for tenacious defense from a well-designed series of bunkers and strongholds, a plan buttressed with major reinforcements until a month before the landing. In short, the Marines were in for a brutal ordeal. Hammel profiles the men and officers of Company E, the main body involved in the capture of the mountain, and then follows the course of the battle through the flag-raising and its aftermath. Some men died on the island, others survived the war, and a few were singled out as heroes because of their parts in the flag-raising, a role they neither sought nor enjoyed. But the identities of the men involved in the iconic event were never clear until well after the war. Hammel describes the way the image of the flag-raising became a symbol of the Marines and the way the survivors eventually tried to get the full story made part of the official record. He documents this effort by including the reports of the Huly Board, which determined the facts, and the detailed photographic evidence the board worked from. Ultimately, readers receive a unique view of a key battle and learn how, years later, the story was put into proper context. A must for World War II buffs."

- Kirkus Reviews

"The book is full of firsthand accounts with clear prose and an engaging narrative connecting them. The result is a book that keeps the reader's interest throughout. There are many differences of opinion and mysteries surrounding the flag raisings, made murkier by the passage of time, the deaths of the participants, and a shortage of records common with combat situations. This book presents the facts as completely as possible and even includes the original Marine Corps investigation findings in the appendices. It is also well illustrated with images of the Marines involved and scenes of the fighting around the famous flag raisings. The book is part history and part detective story. It sheds worthy light on the men who raised both flags amid the carnage of one of the war's most difficult and bloody battles."

- World War II magazine

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