Lt. Harold George Schreier

"Ray County man led patrol up Mt. Suribachi"

1945 has often been cited as the year that changed the world as it was the year of the last great military victories of the Ardennes, Iwo Jima and Okinawa; the great Conferences of Potsdam and Yalta; the defeat of Churchill; the death of Franklin Roosevelt; and the year of the atomic bomb.

It was also the year that a U.S. Army Lieutenant who had ties with Ray County, Missouri, led the two patrols that planted flags atop Mt. Suribachi during the invasion of Iwo Jima during World War II. 

The flag-raisings became a world-wide event and resulted in a world-famous picture of the flag-raising taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

Rosenthal’s picture was taken several hours after a picture of the first flag-raising was taken by Staff Sgt. Louis Lowery, a photographer for Leatherneck Magazine.

Harold George Schreier is best known for being the Marine officer who led a patrol up Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and helped raise the first U.S. flag on the mountain top on February 23, 1945.

His Navy Cross citation said: “Although still under enemy sniper fire, First Lieutenant Schreier, assisted by his Platoon Sergeant, raised the National Colors over Mount Suribachi, planting the flagstaff firmly on the highest knoll overlooking the crater, the first American flag to fly over any land in the inner defenses of the Japanese Empire.”

Schreier became a career officer in the United States Marine Corps. 

A combat veteran of World War II and the Korean War, he was a recipient of the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor.

In the book, “Flags of Our Fathers” by James Bradley he is listed as Lt.Harold George Schrier.

The reason for the discrepancy in the name is that when he received his first U.S. Army paycheck, it came without one “e”.  He needed the money, so it stayed that way. “Schrier” 

“Flags of Our Fathers” by James Bradley is the story of the two flag-raisings and their impact on history and the Marines who survived the Battle of Iwo Jima.

A  movie of the same name was directed by Clint Eastwood.

James Bradley’s father, Pharmacist Mate Second Class John Bradley, was one of the men pictured in the famous Joe Rosenthal photo.

Only three of the men in that picture survived the Battle of Iwo Jima. 

Bradley was also in the picture of the first flag raising. 

Harold Schreierwas born in Corder and attended high school in Lexington. 

He and his mother lived in the Camden-Fleming area of Ray County, before moving to Slater.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps on November 12, 1936, and after training in San Diego, California, he was sent to China to guard the US embassy in Beijing. 

He also served in Tientsin and Shanghai. He became a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in August 1940.

On February 23, 1945, Lt. Schreier volunteered to lead a 40-man patrol to climb up Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima to secure the 556-foot mountain top and to raise a U.S. flag at the summit to signal that it was captured. 

After a fire-fight, a 54-by-28 inch flag from the USS Missoula was raised, and photographed by Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery, a photographer with Leatherneck magazine.

Others present at this first flag raising included Corporal Charles W. Lindberg, Platoon Sergeant Ernest I. Thomas, Jr., Sergeant Henry O. “Hank” Hansen, Private First Class Raymond Jacobs (radioman), Private First Class Louis C. Charlo, Private First Class James Michels, and Pharmacist Mate Second Class John Bradley.

This flag was too small to be seen easily from the nearby landing beaches. The first U.S. flag was later replaced by a larger U.S. flag, the raising of which became famous due to a photograph taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

Schreier took command of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines after the two U.S. flag raisings on Mt. Suribachi. He was awarded the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action on March 24, 1945 leading a counterattack against a fanatical Japanese attack upon his lightly manned command post.

In researching a story for the Richmond News about Schreier, Linda Emley discovered a news item in the Richmond Missourian about Schreier being featured in “Yank Magazine.”

“Yank Magazine Tells of Local Boy’s Part In Iwo Jima Battle.”

Cpl. G.D. Lilly 37528853, Sec M, Boca Raton Field, Florida

“In the latest edition of ‘Yank Magazine,’ the army weekly, I noticed an article which I am enclosing.

“The article gives the name of one of the local men, 1st Lt. Harold Schreier, who participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima, and raised the first American flag when they took the island. This being a recent article, I thought it might be of interest to the Richmond people and will give the home folks some idea of the part their own boys are playing in the war. 

The part of the article which pertains especially to Lt. Schreier’s part in the flag-raising follows: ‘On the fourth night S. Sgt. Ernest E. Thomas of Tallahassee, Florida led a platoon whose officer had been killed; it was accompanied by the company’s executive officer, 1st  Lt. Harold G. Schreier of Richmond, Mo. They dug in for the night at the base of a tortuous path leading to the top of the mountain. It was a bad night. Rain streamed down the mountain in small rivulets that trickled under their clothes and washed the coffee grounds across their bodies. The cold wind made them shiver. They huddled in fox holes, keeping their weapons dry with the ponchos.

“At 0800 hours the following morning, they began the ascent. The volcanic sand on the steep path offered poor footing and stubby plants broke off in the men’s hands or pulled out by their roots. But the only resistance encountered was the occasional ping of a sniper’s bullet.

“At 1131 hours, the Marines were in undisputed control of the top of the volcano. Sgt. Henry Hanson of Somerville, Mass., looked around for a pole and found a lead pipe on the ground. At 1137 hours, he with Lt. Schreier and other 5th  Div. Marines raised the American flag on the top-most mound of Suribachi.” 

The Richmond Missourian gave more details on April 9, 1945: “Tells of Iwo Jima Flag Raising Under Lt. Schreier’s Order. Three of the six Marines who placed the flag on Mt. Suribachi have been killed in action on Iwo Jima, according to a news article in today’s Kansas City Times. The men were shown in Joe Rosenthal’s famous war photograph of the flag-raising.

“The flag was placed at the summit of the volcano on orders of Lt. Harold G. Schreier, 29-year-old son of Mrs. Laura Schreier of Richmond, who did not mention the incident in his letter to his mother. She received a letter from her son on March 17, saying that he was well. The letter was written on March 6. (The flag-raising took place on Feb. 23) “Mrs. Schreier said that all she had learned regarding her son’s part in the flag-raising event had been from the newspapers and magazines.

“Pfc. Rene A. Gagnon, one of the survivors of the group of Marines who placed the flag on Mt. Suribachi, told a reporter in Washington D.C yesterday that ‘It was a big flag that looked swell. For a flagpole, we had to use a piece of Jap pipe. After the flag went up and we were standing there our lieutenant said hurry up because there was work to do.’ The lieutenant to whom Gagnon referred was Lt. Schreier”.

Harold Schreier’s mother made the news in the Richmond Missourian on April 16, 1945. “Mrs. Laura Schreier, 420 North Main St., received a letter from the Marine ‘Moms’ at St. Louis, congratulating her on her son’s feat in helping to raise the flag on Iwo Jima.

“The letter follows: ‘Dear Mrs. Schreier, The Marine ‘Moms’ of St. Louis want to congratulate you on your son’s feat in helping to raise our flag on Iwo Jima. When you write to Harold, please send the very best wishes of the Marine ‘Moms,’ and tell him that we wish his mother lived closer to us so that she might be one of us. If you ever visit our city and can visit us on one of our meeting nights, which are the first and third Fridays of each month, we should be very glad to have you come and to introduce you to our members.

“‘Over eighty of our members have sons on Iwo Jima, or rather I should say, had sons there, as many of them have lost their lives or have been wounded and are in hospitals. A few have not heard anything as yet, and as you can imagine, that waiting to hear is pretty hard. We have been attending four and five memorial services each week for our boys, and I am afraid they will continue for quite a while to come’”.

Joe Rosenthal’s photograph of the flag-raising served as a model for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington D.C. 

The three survivors of the second flag-raising (John Bradley, Rene Gagnon, and Ira Hayes) were brought back to the states and went on tour to promote U.S. War Bonds. 

Harold Schreier, John Bradley, James Michaels, Charles Lindberg, Earnest “Boots” Thomas, Henry Hansen and James Roberson were in the first picture of the first flag-raising.

More of Harold Schreier’s story was told in the Richmond Missourian on June 25, 1945. 

“According to an Associated Press release in the Kansas City Times Saturday, two of the nation’s highest military decorations, the Navy Cross and the Silver Star medal, have been awarded to Lt. Harold G. Schreier, 29-years-old, of the Marine Corps. Lt. Schreier directed the raising of the first flag American flag on Iwo Jima and later rallied his men to hurl back an enemy banzai attack”.

Arthur Dean Van Hoy, another serviceman from Richmond,  was also present during the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. 

Van Hoy was serving on LST 807  in the U.S. Navy and watched the U.S. flag being raised.