Thirteenth hand on the Iwo Jima Memorial

Six Boys And Thirteen Hands…

Each year I am hired to go to Washington, DC, with the eighth grade class from Clinton, WI where I grew up, to videotape their trip.  I greatly enjoy visiting our nation’s capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me.  This fall’s trip was especially memorable.

On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial.  This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history — that of the six brave soldiers raising the American Flag at the top of a rocky hill on the island of Iwo Jima, Japan, during WW II.

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12 thoughts on “Thirteenth hand on the Iwo Jima Memorial”

  1. Its easily settled but no one seems to just count them.

    There are 13 hands counting the partial one, few fingers and a partial palm that doesn’t tie to a body.

    This RUMOR wasn’t started for nothing. Artist mistake? Would you admit to making a mistake like that or dismiss it? Who knows, but its real.

    Semper Fi

    1. Hi JG, let us all know what this rumor is all about…my readers my like to know also…will welcome your answer…if it is long enouogh I might ask permission to make a post for general reading…let me know. Write about your knowledge about a “rumor event”…jackg USMC

    1. Thank you Joe and Thomas…of Iwo Jima fame….being a Leatherneck myself, I always appreciate the reliving of Marine Corps fame in the Pacific……keep in touch.. jackg (USMC) Semper Fi…

  2. I was a gunnery sergeant on Iwo Jima from 19 Feb to 26 Mar 1945. I first heard the “13th hand” story early in 1999 from a 4-H group from California. Then, I could not confirm or deny the story — but I did not believe it was true — so I began researching it and before the year was out I published the booklet “The Iwo Jima Memorial & the Myth of the 13th Hand.” Over two editions (1999, 2001), 13 thousand copies were sold. It is no longer in print.
    My research was conducted at the Marine Corps History Center, the National Archives, with knowledgeable veterans who had fought on Iwo Jima with the unit that raised the two flags on 23 February, in many books and articles about the battle and hundreds of visits to the memorial.
    I happened to be at the memorial one day when sculptor Felix deWeldon also visited there, and I was able to ask him how he thought the myth began. Mr. deWeldon admitted he did not know. He threw his hands up and said, “Thirteen hands! Who needed thirteen, twelve were enough!”
    My hope in 1999 was to erase this fiction of a 13th hand. Obviously, I was not successful.

    1. Thank you Thomas for your information on the Iwo Jima piece…..I am a proud former buck sgt with the corps (USMC)…Sometimes THomas, a myth, as I found out as a writer, often leads many of the disputants and seekers of setting things straight…which I am happy you did….but down inside in my stomach something whispers to me “…john, I was the thirteenth hand on that rising flag mast at Iwo Jima…..I wanted the picture to be perfect…as It is…Your God…..I bring this up Thomas, to thank you for your accuracy and I hope you may give me permission to use your comments in a full blown article on my Lifejustiz® newspaper…(blog)

      Also, Thomas, being Marines do you have somethngs you might like to share with all of us about your exerience that day on Iwo Jima before your valiant voice becomes still….as so many of us grow old and our life stories become the nutrients of silence….hope to hear soon….semper Fi…johng

  3. Pvt Leon Odell Griffith was the USMC journalist on Iwo the day that flag was raised. He later retired as a Captain. As a boy, I sat with him at his dinner table in Pensacola, Florida more than 200 times betwen 1972 and 1984. He was quite a man. I wrote an entry on him titled “Odell Griffith”, and posted it online in Pensapedia, the online encyclopedia. A local reporter who later worked with Capt Griffith at the Pensacola News-Journal said my entry was “on the money”. I really admired Odell Griffith. He was one tough Marine, and very fatherly. I do miss him. Thanks for the article.

    1. Thank you, Geoffrey….I loved your response. Being a proud member of the Marine Corps myself I read with great interest and pride of your relationship with Leon Griffith….did your story tell Leon’s life story on Iwo Jima? I would love to have you send me a copy of his life if you would. I would love to get some of the Marine stories of the men who hit the beaches on that hell hole…..I will publish anything I can get on them…most of the survivors are dieing off…must get there stories published before they are gone….thanks, John G….

      1. I was only 23 when Capt Griffith died at 62. It was January 1984. What I have written is/was strictly from memory. Please google Pensapedia, and type in “Odell Griffith” in the search engine on the left. He had five books published, and two were done so by Random House. Pensapedia is wiki-based, and can be edited by others. With that in mind, I simply wrote the facts as I knew them. I kept it short to avoid any chance of vanity posting. PNJ reporter Mark O’Brien and Editor Emeritus J Earle Bowden knew Capt Griffith on a professional level, and for many years. Perhaps they could tell you more about him. He was one of the most influential people in my life. Thanks, again.

        1. Thank you, GH….I will look the references you cite…I have so many things to get finished soon, it might be a while for me to any additional work on Iwo for awhile…….jg….take a look at the one I put up today as a tribute to all the services on this Memorial Day 2011…I was a 6 year veteran of the Marine Corps and appreciate the Men and Women of the Military….keep in touch…love to hear from readers and researchers…..jg

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