February 23, 1945 — Iwo Jima, Japan
Corporal Harlon Block served with his team to raise the American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Raised in a pacifist Seventh-day Adventist home, where killing and possessing weapons were forbidden, Iwo Jima seemed a very unlikely place for him to end up. He was born in Yorktown, Texas, in 1924, where he led his football team to the Conference Championship. Harlon volunteered for the Marine Corps and became a member of the Parachute Replacement Battallion. Later, he was assigned to the 5th Marine Division, led by Sgt. Mike Strank, and with these men, he traveled to Iwo Jima. Harlon Block was Sgt. Mike Strank’s second-in-command and took over when Mike died. His leadership position would be brief, however, as Harlon was killed by a mortar blast only hours after Strank on March 1, 1945. He was barely 21. A comrade’s son, James Bradley, later wrote, “It is doubtful that in his short life Harlon Block ever kissed a girl.” This young man came from a background that didn’t support war, but his duty to his country led him to give his life for freedom. He is buried in Harlingen, Texas, beside the Iwo Jima Monument.