Monday, October 11, 2004

LtCol Harold G. Schrier USMC (Ret.) deceased

1 October, 2004

Who is 1/Lt Harold G. Schrier, USMC? Those who recognize his name will likely remember only that he was the officer who led the patrol up Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima to raise our flag there in 1945. Yet his achievements and career ranks right up there with many better known Marine heroes of the Corps, both Old Corps and new. Having researched some elusive facts regarding this Marine, I have decided to record them here for the benefit of Marines, and others, with an interest in such matters.

It was 1/Lt Harold G. Schrier, USMC, Executive Officer of Easy Company, 2d Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division, who was chosen to lead the 40-man combat patrol up Mount Suribachi on the morning of 23 February 1945. And it was this patrol from Easy Comapny that first raised our flag over soverign territory of Japan that day, at approximately 1020 (the given time varies according to which account is used)that morning.

No American died during the final assault on Mount Suribachi. Later...Why, Schrier wondered, had they declined to defend the mountaintop? Attacking from the tunnels, after the flag went up, the Japanese were easy targets. But earlier, the American patrol had been vulnerable, virtually helpless, woefully outnumbered. "We'd have been real dead ducks," Schrier admitted. "They could've killed us all."20

Leatherneck magazine photographer, S/Sgt Lou Lowery, accompanied Schrier's patrol, and he took a series of photos of the patrol's ascent up Suribachi and the flag raising.

Later that day, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal came upon the flag that Schrier's patrol had raised..."he finally saw the flag, too, high above him, a tiny thing, waving bravely from the top of a very tall pole. At the base knelt an officer with a triangle of red, white, and blue under one arm...the plan, he soon learned, was to take down the old flag, pole and all. Simultaneously, the big flag would go up in its stead, tied to a pipe a detail was now dragging toward the spot. It was Lieutenant Schrier's idea to do it that way, in a sort of ad hoc ceremony that would keep the Stars and Stripes flying despite the change in banners. Having once planted the American flag atop Suribachi, the young officer was determined never to see it come down again...The shutter clicked, Joe Rosenthal had his picture.14"

"...on February 24 when Schrier was notified, "Request you designate one member group of flag raisers report aboard Eldorado (AGC 11) early morning 25 February.Purpose news broadcast.

Schrier sent his second in command of the original patrol--PltSgt Ernest Ivy "Boots" Thomas. At 0430 the next morning, Thomas found himself aboard the ship in the presence of Admiral Turner and General "Howlin' Mad" Smith. He was then interviewed by Don Pryor of CBS, who, microphone in hand, introduced him as "a modest but tough 20-year old fighting man from Tallahassee," leader of the Marine platoon that captured Suribachi, "the first American in history who has ever raised Old Glory over a part of the Japanese Empire."

A stunned pause. "No, Mr. Pryor," Thomas interjected, "I don't want to give that impression. The honor belongs to every man in my platoon. Three of us actually raised the flag--Lieutenant Harold G. Schrier, our company executive officer, Sergeant H.O. Hansen of Boston, and myself. But the rest of the men had just as big a part in it as we did."

Thomas continued to point out that although he felt "mighty proud," he did not consider himself a hero, or that he had done anything that the others hadn't also done."
(PltSgt Thomas, speaking to the media and Navy/Marine Corps top brass just a couple days after the flag raising on Iwo Jima!)
(The above information taken from the Marling/Wetenhall book)
Iwo Jima, Monuments, Memories, and the American Hero, Marling and Wetenhall, Harvard University Press, 1991

Further informtion is scarce regarding 1/Lt Harold G. Schrier USMC. He never wrote a book, nor did anyone ever write a book about him. There are, however, numerous books indicating some information about his Marine Corps career, but for the most part these are in reference to his part regarding the Iwo Jima flag raising, such as the quotes shown above. So I requested information about him from HQMC and they provided me some information that was published (that is, typed on four 8x11 sheets, photocopied), dated 24 October, 1952. This writing is not signed nor does it indicate the name of the writer. It also bears the handwritten annotations "LtCol Retired" and "died 6-3-71".

In regard to the following HQMC information on LtCol Schrier, the following clarifying remarks of my own are provided.

1. It states that Schrier was a former Marine Raider. That would be the 2d Marine Raider Battalion--"Carlson's Raiders"--commanded by LtCol Evans F. Carlson USMCR. (The XO of 2d Raiders was Maj James "Jimmy" Roosevelt, the president's (FDR) son.

2. It also states that Schrier served at Midway. That would have been with Dog Company, 2d Raider Bn. (Companies C&D, 2d Raider Bn were detached for Midway service prior to Carlson's Guadalcanal campaign.

3. It states that Schrier completed "boot" training in January, 1937. This squares with the Marling/Wetenhall book which indicates he entered the Marine Corps in 1936.

Marine Major Harold George Schrier, winner of the Navy Cross and Silver Star Medal for heroism at Iwo Jima, has fought in five World War II campaigns and in Korea in his 16 years as a Marine Corps officer and enlisted man. The former Marine Raider is presently serving as Office in Charge of the Marine Corps Recruiting Station, Birmingham, Alabama.

Major Schrier (then a lieutenant) earned the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism as leader of a 40-man patrol which fought its way to the top of Mt. Suribachi on February 23, 1945. Despite enemy small arms and artillery fire the patrol successfully made the grueling climb to the top, where Major Schrier directed his men in raising the first American flag to fly over any land in the inner defenses of the Japanese Empire.

He was awarded the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action on the night of March 24, 1945, during a fanatical Japanese attack. The citation states in part:
“Lieutenant Schrier unhesitatingly exposed himself to the onrushing enemy and by his personal example and shouted encouragement rallied his small force and led it to a counter-attack which destroyed forth-six of the enemy and caused the survivors to withdraw in disorder.”

The major earned the Legion of Merit during the New Georgia campaign, for meritorious conduct while serving with a reconnaissance party on enemy-held Vandunu before the invasion of that island. He and the party made their way to the island by canoe and spent two days scouting enemy positions and troop concentrations. When the rest of the group left the island he remained on it for nine days to signal to the approaching invasion ships and guide troops to the beach.

In addition to Iwo Jima and New Georgia he participated in the Midway, Guadalcanal and Bougainville campaigns of World War II. In the Korean fighting he earned the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service in August and September, 1950, as Adjutant of the First Provisional Marine Brigade, and the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in action during the breakout from the Chosin reservoir.

The major was born at Corder, MO, on October 17, 1916 and attended high school at Lexington, MO. He enlisted in thte Marine Corps on November 12, 1936.

Completing “boot” training at San Diego, California, in January 1937, he was ordered to China, where he served with the American Embassy guard at Peiping and with units at Tientsin and Shanghai. He returned to the States in August, 1940 to become a drill instructor at San Diego.

With the formation of Marine Raider Battalions in the early months of 1942, Major Schrier volunteered for that service. He was assigned to the Second Raider Battalion and embarked with the unit for the Pacific theater in April, 1942. After the Midway and Guadalcanal campaigns he was commissioned in the field on February 28, 1943, remaining with the Second Raider Battalion through the New Georgia and Bougainville operations.

Returning to the States in February, 1944, the major served as an infantry instructor at Camp Pendelton, California, until that July, when he joined the newly-formed Fifth Marine Division as executive officer of Company “E,”
Second Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment. He returned to the Pacific theater with “E” Company in September, 1944, and in February, 1945, during the Iwo Jima campaign, was named commander of Company “D.”

In July, 1945, Major Schrier returned to the States. He served briefly at San Diego until October, 1945, and from then until December, 1946, was stationed at the Marine Barracks, Naval Ammunition Depot, Seal Beach, California. He embarked again for overseas duty in January, 1947, with his assignment as executive officer of the Marine Barracks, Samar, Philippine Islands, In August, 1947, he was assigned to the Marine Barracks, U.S. Fleet activities Yokosuka, Japan, where he served as post operations and training officer and commander of the Second Guard Company.

Returning again to the States in March, 1949, the Major was stationed with the First Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California. While there he had additional duties as a technical advisor during the making of the movie, “Sands of Iwo Jima.”

With the outbreak of the Korean fighting Major Schrier embarked for Korea with the First Marine Brigade in July, 1950. He was brigade adjutant during the Pusan perimeter fighting and from September to December, 1950, commanded a company of the Fifth Marine Regiment in the Inchon-Seoul and Chosin reservoir campaigns. He returned to the States in January, 1951, when he was assigned to this present duties. He was promoted to his present rank in May, 1951.

In addition to the Navy Cross, Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit, and Bronze Star and Purple Heart Medals, the major’s medals and decorations include the Presidential Unit Citation with three bronze stars; the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal; the China Service Medal; the American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Campaign Medal with one silver star in lieu of five bronze stars; the American Theater Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the Korean Service Medal with three bronze stars; and the United Nations Service Medal.

Major Schrier and his wife, Edna, reside at 5319 Terrace J., Birmingham, Alabama.
A brother, Arnold E. Schrier, lives at 521 East Devon Street, Independence, MO.
24 October, 1952

R.W. Gaines, GySgt USMC (Ret.)
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