Anniversary of 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.


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.

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



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