1945 AP photo

stranks66

Mike Strank was one of the group of soldiers raising the American flag in the well-known photograph by the Associated Press reporter Joe Rosenthal only six days before Mike's death. It was taken on the Island of Iwo Jima as the U.S. was fighting Japan toward the end of World War II.

Rosenthal took the picture when soldiers were raising the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi, the highest hill on the small island, for the second time, in the afternoon of 23 February 1945, replacing a smaller flag raised earlier on the same day.

Arlington memorial

Mike Strank is on the other side in the AP photograph. The photograph below outlines his statue in the Marine Corps War Memorial in the Arlington National Cemetery, which is based on the AP photograph.

Mike Strank

Flags of Our Fathers

Marine Sgt. Mike Strank's character was played by actor Barry Pepper in the film Flags of Our Fathers directed by Clint Eastwood in 2006.

 

I am grateful to Bruce L. Bauer of Andrews University, and Jim Crownover, CA, for their help with reliable sources.

Mike Strank

Q: Was Mike Strank Slovak?

Mike Strank was born on 10 November 1919 in Jarabiná, North-East Slovakia. He died on 1 March 1945 on the Island of Iwo Jima in the Pacific theater of war.

Mike immigrated as a small boy (called Michal Strenk then) with his mother Marta née Grofik on 4 August 1922, a year after his father Vasiľ (Vasily). Both parents gave their language as Slovak on immigration.

Erroneous military record

It is not clear why the U.S. military records list the same date for Mike's birthday, but give his birth place as Conemaugh, PA, (Cambria County; rather than in modern Conemaugh Township, he and his family lived at 121 Pine Street in what is the Borough of Franklin today, all part of the Johnstown metropolitan area). The error has been copied in several publications.

As a minor, Mike became U.S. citizen automatically with his father in 1935, but never received his citizenship papers (which may explain the misstated place of birth in the military record). The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services symbolically rectified their ommission and presented his certificate of naturalization to his relatives at a ceremony in Arlington on 29 July 2008.

Mike's birth and baptism is entered in the parish records at Jarabiná. It has been a predominantly Rusyn village and Mike's distant relatives in the village identify as Rusyn.