Baker Company 1/7 and "The Sands of Iwo Jima"

Cast and crew of the movie, Sands of Iwo Jima” along with B/1/7 who served as the Marine “extras”.

The on-screen credits include a dedication to the U.S. Marine Corps and a historical note which states that “The first American flag was raised on Mount Suribachi by the late Sgt. Ernest I. Thomas, Jr., U.S.M.C. on the morning of February 23, 1945.”

According to a New York Times news item, the United States Marine Corps approved the film’s scenario. Appearing in the picture as themselves are Lt. Gen. Holland M. Smith (Ret.), wartime commander of the Fifth Amphibious Corps; Capt. Harold Schrier, who led the platoon of Marines up the slopes of Suribachi; Lt. Col. H. P. Crowe, a battalion commander on Tarawa; and Col. David M. Shoup, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A Los Angeles Daily News news item noted that nearly 2,000 Marines were used as extras in the making of the picture. According to a Los Angeles Times news item, for the shots depicting the flag raising, Maj. Andrew Greer permitted Republic to use the actual Iwo Jima flag, which was housed at the Marine Museum at Quantico, VA. The sequence is based on newsreel footage taken of the flag raising, as well as Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph, which appeared in the March 26, 1945 edition of Life. To take the photograph, Rosenthal asked that the participants re-enact the actual flag raising, which had occurred some hours previous. The flag raising is also depicted at the Marine Corps Memorial statue in Arlington, VA.

The Variety review noted that many of the film’s battle sequences were made up of “footage taken at the actual fighting at Tarawa and Iwo Jima.” New York Times items indicated that filming took place at Camp Pendleton, Camp Del March and El Toro Marine Air Station in Southern California.

A modern source notes that Wayne’s footprints and handprints were placed at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in conjunction with the opening of the film there. Wayne received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for Sands of Iwo Jima.

Other nominations included Richard L. Van Enger for Best Film Editing, Harry Brown for Best Writing (Motion Picture Story) and Republic Studios’ Sound Department for Best Sound Recording. According to a February 5, 1950 New York Times news item, Republic planned a sequel to the film, called Devil Birds, which was to star Wayne, but that picture was never made.

# In one scene, combat veteran Sgt. Stryker (John Wayne) instructs bumbling recruit Pvt. Choynski (Hal Baylor) on the correct way to march and hold a rifle. In real life Baylor was an ex-Marine who fought in the battles of Saipan and Tinian in WW II; Wayne had never served in the military.

# The three men who were part of the flag raising (made famous by the photograph Joe Rosenthal had taken) and survived the battle for Iwo Jima, appear in the movie. Rene A. Gagnon, Ira H. Hayes and John H. Bradley are seen with with John Wayne as he instructs them to hoist the flag. (Wayne gives the folded flag to Gagnon). The flag used to recreate the incident is the actual flag that was raised on Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945. It was loaned to the movie by the US Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Virginia.

# Following the success of the movie, John Wayne was invited to place his footprints in cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater. As part of the event, actual black sand from Iwo Jima was flown to Hollywood and mixed into the cement in which The Duke left his footprints and “fist print”.

# Kirk Douglas was originally cast as Sergeant Stryker.

# John Wayne almost turned the film down at first, since at 42 he was rather old for the part and because he felt the American public had had enough of war films.

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  • Jones Acton

    Kudos for such an informative article. As a fellow former Marine as well as a Wikipedia editor, I am interesting in providing a reliable source for the assertion of the use of one of the actual Iwo Jima flags in the production of “Sands of Iwo Jima”; I have so far been unable to secure such either from the Marine Corps Museum or from a search of the archives of the Los Angeles Times. Therefore, I was wondering if you might be able to supply the title of the Times’ news item mentioned here, or the date of it’s publication, or both. Again, my congratulations on such a well-written and laid out article; I would also like to wish you and yours all the merriment and joy the holiday season brings, and a Happy Thanksgiving! J. R. Acton III

    • Cpl. Beddoe

      J.R., It might be a good idea to pose the question on TWS. Semper Fi!