A veteran of World War II credited with providing the flag in the famous flag-raising on Iwo Jima has died at his Los Angeles County home. Alan Wood died of natural causes April 18 at the age of 90, his son Steven Wood announced Saturday.
Wood was a 22-year-old Navy officer in charge of communications on a landing ship on Iwo Jima’s shores on Feb. 23, 1945 when a Marine asked him for the biggest flag he could find.
After five days of intense fighting to capture the Japanese-held island, U.S. forces had managed to scale Mount Suribachi to hoist an American flag. Woods happened to have a 37-square-foot flag that he had found months before in a Pearl Harbor Navy depot.
Five Marines and a Navy Corpsman raised the flag in a stirring moment captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. Steven Wood said his father was always humbled by his small role in the historic moment.
In a 1945 letter to a Marine general who asked for details about the flag, Alan Wood wrote: “The fact that there were men among us who were able to face a situation like Iwo where human life is so cheap, is something to make humble those of us who were so very fortunate not to be called upon to ensure such hell.”
In a story on Wood’s death, the Los Angeles Times reported that over the years others have claimed that they provided the famous Iwo Jima flag, but retired Marine Col. Dave Severance, who commanded the company that took Mount Suribachi, said in an interview last week that it was Wood.
“I have a file of more than 60 people who claim to have have something to do with the flags,” Severance said from his home in La Jolla, Calif.
After the war, Wood went on to work as a technical artist and spokesman at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge.
His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1985. Besides his son, Wood is survived by three grandchildren.