Henry Hansen, An American Hero From Somerville


By Skip Murray

On the morning of February 23, 1945, American soldiers took the summit of Mt. Suribachi, in The Battle of Iwo Jima. Once the summit was taken, an American flag was raised. The result of that moment is this famous picture, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, taken by Associated Press photographer, Joe Rosenthal, which may well be the most well known American picture from WWII.

irajima flag raising
While many of you will recognize this picture, what you may not know is that Somerville High School graduate, eighteen year old Henry O. Hansen (pictured here),

was one of the six men that raised that flag marking the taking of Mt. Suribachi summit. He is pictured here wearing a soft hat, his left hand placed on the pole. At the time this picture was taken, the Marines were still under fire from the Japanese.
soft hat
Photo by retired US Marine Corps photographer, Lou Lowery.

Henry had joined the Marines at age eighteen and trained as a Paramarine, a specialized combat unit dropped from planes by parachute.

Now, to be clear, Henry is not in the Rosenthal picture. That picture is a reenactment. It was a second flag to be raised. The reason for the second flag is that the original flag was not large enough to be seen by all those needing to see it. However, the important bit here is that Henry was one of the people that actually raised that flag moments after the summit was taken.

Once the Marines took control of the hill, Henry looked around for something to hang the flag on. He found a lead pipe on the ground, attached the flag to it, and up it went.

The importance of American forces taking control of the summit was that until the hill was taken, it had served the Japanese as an early warning station that radioed reports back to mainland Japan of incoming American bombers, thus allowing Japanese air defenses to prepare for the arrival of those bombers.

Of the thousands and thousands of people that took part in WWII, just six people raised the flag at Iwo Jima. Somerville’s Henry Hansen was one of those people.

And Somerville has done a great service to the memory of Marine Sgt. Hansen by dedicating a park in his name, in his honor.


Henry Hansen Park sits on the corner Medford Street and Partridge Ave, just a block before getting into Magoon Sq. It contains a garden, two benches to sit on, a granite memorial, and an outdoor exhibit telling some of his story. It was put in place in 2004.


Henry died in fighting three weeks after raising that flag. He is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Honolulu Honolulu County Hawaii, USA
Plot: Section O, Grave 392


He enlisted at eighteen. He died at eighteen.


7 thoughts on “Henry Hansen, An American Hero From Somerville”

  1. THat is awesome. My dad was in 3 branches of service and he was one of the first 500 to land in Korea. I am glad people see that there are many brave people from sonerville

    1. I knew it was a Somerville boy that helped raise the flag And now I know a little about this young Marine Thank you for posting

  2. A beautiful little pocket park in Magoun Square honoring a true WW II hero. Hansen grew up in the Magoun Square neighborhood (once for a period on Henderson Street as a matter of fact) and I was honored to participate in the design and dedication of this memorial and park. His surviving family began the movement to honor Hank, the Kelly Gay administration made the funding work, former Veterans Admin. director Frank Senesi shepherded the project along and Mayor Joe Curtatone presided at its dedication.

    Community, government and private citizens working together to honor those who protect all three.

    Thanks for this article Skip.

  3. Another Somerville resident was also at Iwo Jima, Benedict J. DiRusso. Like Sgt. Hansen, he was part of the 5th Marine Division. He was there from the start of the invasion until the end.

  4. Thank You The City of Somerville for your worthy tribute to
    Henry a Somerville home grown man who served his Ameica
    With the supreme sacrifice. + Memory Eternal God Bless

  5. Thanks for this story Skip. Hank Hansen lives through the efforts of people like you who continue to remind us all of his and many others who sacrificed for our freedoms.

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