Louis R. Lowery

Louis R. Lowery
Nickname(s) Lou
Born (1916-07-24)July 24, 1916
Died April 15, 1987(1987-04-15) (aged 70)
Place of burial Quantico National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Rank Captain
Battles/wars Battle of Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa
Awards Purple Heart Medal (2)
Combat Action Ribbon
Other work Leatherneck Magazine
United States Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association

Louis R. "Lou" Lowery (July 24, 1916 April 15, 1987) was a United States Marine Corps captain. He was the only Marine Corps combat photographer to cover six major campaigns during World War II. He is best known for taking the first photographs of the first American flag that was raised on top of Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima on the morning of February 23, 1945.

Lowery was the founder and former president of the United States Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association (USMCCCA). He also was a photographic director of Leatherneck Magazine, a publication of the Marine Corps. He died on April 15, 1987 at age 70 from aplastic anemia and is buried in Quantico National Cemetery in Prince William County, Virginia near the Marine Corps War Memorial.[1] In 2006, Lowery was portrayed by actor David Hornsby in film Flags of Our Fathers.

U.S. Marine Corps

Battle of Iwo Jima

U.S. Flag raisings

Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima

On February 23, 1945, Lowery then a staff sergeant, accompanied the 40-man combat patrol which included two Navy corpsmen, that climbed Mount Suribachi to seize and occupy the crest, and raise the Second Battalion's U.S. flag if possible to signal that it was captured. The patrol led by First Lieutenant Harold Schrier,[2] captured and secured the mountaintop and raised the flag attached to a Japanese steel water pipe approximately 10:30 A.M. Immediately after the flag was raised, a short firefight took place after Japanese soldiers came out of a cave. An enemy grenade was tossed, and Lowery fell with his camera several feet down the side of the crater from the blast. Though Lowery was unhurt, his camera was damaged but the film was intact.

The actual flag raising (not in Lowery's photographs) was done by Lt. Schrier (a former Marine Raider), Platoon Sgt. Ernest Thomas (a former drill instructor), and Sgt. Henry Hansen (a former Paramarine), according to Sgt. Thomas who did a CBS news interview aboard the flagship USS Eldorado (AGC-11) after meeting with Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner and Lieutenant General Holland Smith on February 25, 1945.[3] Most of the patrol members were from Third Platoon, Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division; Pfc. Raymond Jacobs was the radioman (photographed by Lowery) reassigned from F Company for the patrol. Hansen was killed in action on Iwo Jima on March 1 and Thomas on March 3, 1945.

The flag was determined to be too small to be easily seen north of Mount Suribachi where most of the Japanese soldiers were located and heavy fighting would occur in the coming days. A second (and larger) American flag attached to another Japanese steel pipe, was raised and planted by a group of six different Marines approximately 1 P.M. the same day which resulted in the world famous photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Photography later that year. At Schrier's command, one flag went up and the other flag came down. Rosenthal whose photos were processed days before Lowery's photos were, went up Mount Suribachi with Marine photographers, Sgt. Bill Genaust (killed in action March 4) and Pvt. Bob Campbell after the first flag was raised. While Lowery was coming down Suribachi, he met and informed Rosenthal and the two Marine photographers about the first flag raising.

On March 14, by orders of General Smith, another flag was officially raised on the northern end of Iwo Jima which signaled the island was occupied and the flag on Mount Suribachi was taken down. The battle of Iwo Jima was officially over on March 26.

Lowery photos

Lowery took several black and white photographs on Iwo Jima including photographs of the first American flag flown on top of Mount Suribachi. Due to an agreement between the Marine Corps and the Associated Press in regard to Rosenthal's famous photo of the second flag raising, Lowery's photos taken on Iwo Jima weren't published until 1947, when sixteen of his photos appeared in Leatherneck Magazine. Two of Lowery's photos of the first American flag after it was raised atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima:[4]

Most circulated photo taken by Lowery
Similar photo by Lowery

Photo (Left):
Left to Right: 1st Lt. Harold Schrier (kneeling behind radioman),[5] Pfc. Raymond Jacobs (radioman), Sgt. Henry "Hank" Hansen (cloth cap, looking downward while he is helping to steady the flagstaff with his left hand), Pvt. Phil Ward, securing the lower part of the flagstaff, Platoon Sgt. Ernest "Boots" Thomas (seated), PhM2c. John Bradley, USN (securing the flagstaff above Ward), Pfc. James Michels (holding M1 carbine), and Cpl. Charles W. Lindberg (standing above Michels).

Photo (Right):
1st Lt. Schrier remains kneeling behind Pfc. Jacobs, Sgt. Hansen is now looking upward, Pvt. Ward remains securing the lower part of the flagstaff, Platoon Sgt. Thomas remains seated, PhM2c. Bradley remains above Ward helping to secure the flagstaff, Pfc. Michels remains holding his M1 carbine, and Cpl. Lindberg is now looking downward. Pvt. Harold Schultz appears in this photo at the far lower left and Sgt. Howard Synder appears in this photo standing at the far right.

Military awards

Lowery's military decorations and awards include:

Gold star
Silver star
Bronze star
Purple Heart Medal w/ one 516" Gold Star
Combat Action Ribbon Navy Presidential Unit Citation American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/
one 316" silver star and one 316" bronze star
World War II Victory Medal National Defense Service Medal

Marine Corps War Memorial

The Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial) in Arlington, Virginia which was inspired by Rosenthal's photograph of the second flag-raising by six Marines atop Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945, was dedicated on November 10, 1954.[6]Lowery, who was present at the first flag-raising on Mount Suribachi and took the first photographs of the American flag, attended the dedication.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower sat upfront with Vice President Richard Nixon, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Anderson, and General Lemuel C. Shepherd, the 20th Commandant of the Marine Corps during the dedication ceremony. Two of the three surviving flag-raisiers depicted on the monument, Ira Hayes and Rene Gagnon, were seated together with John Bradley (a Navy corpsman who was incorrectly identified as being a flag-raiser)[7] in the front rows of seats along with relatives of the those who were killed in action on the island.[8] Speeches were given by Richard Nixon, Robert Anderson who dedicated the memorial, and General Shepherd who presented the memorial to the American people.[9] Inscribed on the memorial are the following words:

In Honor And Memory Of The Men of The United States Marine Corps Who Have Given Their Lives To Their Country Since 10 November, 1775

On June 23, 2016, the Marine Corps announced that former Navy corpsman John Bradley (deceased) who was depicted as the third bronze statue from the bottom of the flagstaff on the monument, was not in the Rosenthal photograph and former Marine Harold Schultz (deceased) was.[10] Franklin Sousley and Schultz are depicted as the third and fifth bronze statues from the bottom of the flagstaff with the 32 foot (9.8 M) bronze statues of Harlon Block, Rene Gagnon, Michael Strank, and Ira Hayes on the monument.[11]

Louis R. Lowery Award

The "Louis R. Lowery Award", sponsored by Leatherneck magazine and the Marine Corps Association, is presented for photo of the year appearing in Leatherneck or as its cover.

Lowery headstone

Lowery was buried at the Quantico National Cemetery in 1987, followed by his wife Doris in 2004.

See also


  1. World War II Graves
  2. Richmond News, Camden-Fleming man an unsung hero at Iwo Jima, January 2, 2012. Retrieved July 6, 2015
  3. Rural Florida Living. CBS Radio interview by Dan Pryor with flag raiser Ernest "Boots" Thomas on February 25, 1945 aboard the USS Eldorado (AGC-11): "Three of us actually raised the flag"
  4. Combat Camera, Louis R. Lowey. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  5. Richmond News, Camden-Fleming man an unsung hero at Iwo Jima, January 2, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  6. Marine Barracts Washington, D.C.
  7. USMC Statement on Marine Corps Flag Raisers, Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communication, 23 June 2016
  8. "Memorial honoring Marines dedicated". Reading Eagle. Pennsylvania. Associated Press. November 10, 1954. p. 1.
  9. "Marine monument seen as symbol of hopes, dreams". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. November 10, 1954. p. 2.
  10. USMC Statement on Marine Corps Flag Raisers, Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communication, 23 June 2016
  11. USMC Statement on Marine Corps Flag Raisers, Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communication, 23 June 2016
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