Saturday marks 70th anniversary of the death of Kentucky's Iwo Jima war hero

03/17/2015 01:54 PM

FLEMINGSBURG — This Saturday marks the 70th anniversary of the death of World War II veteran and Fleming County native Franklin Sousley, who was one of six men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, a moment captured in the famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal.

Dewayne Price is a nephew of Sousley and is the keeper of artifacts from Sousley’s life including letters that he wrote to his mother.

The letters give a first-hand account of what life was like for the Kentucky soldier half-a-world away in a battle zone.

On February 26, 1945, Sousley wrote: “Dearest mother. As you probably already know, we hit Iwo Jima on February 19, just a week ago today. My regiment took the hill with my company on the front line. The hill was hard and I never expected war to be like it was these first four days. I got some through my clothing and I sure am happy that I still am OK. The island is practically secure. There is some heavy fighting on one end and we are bothered some at night. Maybe you can never imagine how a battlefield looks. It sure looks horrible. Look for my picture because I helped put the flag up. Please don’t worry and write. Your son, Franklin.”

Sousley would not return home alive. On March 21, 1945, Sousley, along with his fellow marines were in the late phase on trying to totally secure the island.

“They called it mopping up,” said Price. “They were just hitting spots that they thought that people were still at. And this day, they thought Franklin’s mind was somewhere else. They said that he kind of drifted out into an area where he wasn’t supposed to be in and a sniper got him. Killed him instantly.”

A ceremony will be held beginning at 2:00pm this Sunday at the Franklin Sousley VFW Post in Flemingsburg commemorating the 70th anniversary of Franklin Sousley’s death. The event includes a graveside tribute at the Elizaville Cemetery.


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