Remembering Great Achievements

by Barbara Ellen Hamann

February may be the shortest month of the year, but it's packed full of some very special and significant events. This is the month that my parents got married over 60 years ago. It's the month I moved to San Francisco for the second time and the month in which I completed my Master's Thesis. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and one of my good friends have birthdays in February. Ground Hog Day, Chinese New Year and St. Valentine's Day are all major events observed and celebrated during February.

The calendar reminds us of important dates so we won't forget them. However, there are some dates, marked by history, that we're reminded of with little or no notice. Here is one of them that happened on a February day long ago in a far away land.

It's February in 1945. Somewhere in America a juke box is playing songs by the Ink Spots and Bing Crosby. The Andrew Sisters have a major music hit called "I'll Get By." Joan Crawford makes a come-back in Mildred Pierce, and Ray Milland wins an Oscar for The Lost Weekend. Clark Gable, John Garfield and Fred MacMurray rank as box-office idols, and Betty Grable owns the "greatest" pair of legs. Hamburgers are 15 cents, and a phone call costs a nickel (which may have coined the phrase, "It's your nickel..."). It's the year of Big Band sounds and a dance called the boogie-woogie. It's a time of ice boxes, wood-burning stoves and rhubarb pie. Automobiles have running boards and horns that sound aaoooogah! Milk comes in glass bottles and is delivered to your door. Travel is by train and seldom by plane. Factories and assembly plants work round-the-clock as well as the shipyards and loading docks. It's a time when America is at War!

Meanwhile, several thousands of miles away on a tiny island in the Pacific, a cameraman climbs an extinct volcano and takes an action shot. Soon, that picture will be seen by millions of people in every city and town throughout America. Perfect in composition and sculptural in effect, the photo of the flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi at Iwo Jima is perhaps the most famous single photograph ever taken. The photographer is Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press in San Francisco. This accomplishment will win him a Pulitizer Prize and within the next decade, his photograph will be immortalized in 75 feet of bronze. A towering reminder of the Battle at Iwo Jima. The camera clicks and history is frozen in time.

February 23rd will mark the 53rd anniversary of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima. When Joe Rosenthal's photograph was published stateside, it was an immediate morale booster. Until then Americans saw no end in sight to the War. The flag-raising photograph had one powerful message - VICTORY! On February 23, I will thank Joe Rosenthal, the Marines (5) and Navy Corpsman (1) who raised that flag, and the countless men who died so that flag could be raised. (Note: Joe Rosenthal retired from the San Francisco Chronicle in the 1980's and lives in San Francisco).


Barbara Ellen Hamann is retired and lives in San Francisco, CA. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University with degrees in Journalism and Film Production. Barbara founded The FOA Group (Focus On Aging) in 1993, a support group that discusses growing older in a youth oriented society. She is also founder and owner of Miniopolis...where small things mean a lot. A company that deals in small collectibles. You can e-mail her at FOA

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