Harlon Henry Block, marine, the first of four sons of Edward Frederick and Ada Belle Block, was born on November 6, 1924, at Yorktown, Texas. After graduating from Weslaco High School, he entered the marines, on February 18, 1943, in San Antonio. He completed basic training in San Diego, California, attended parachute training school, and was assigned to the First Marine Parachute Regiment. As a member of this unit he experienced his first combat duty during the Bougainville campaign. He subsequently appeared in one of the most famous battle photographs ever taken: the raising of the flag atop Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II. After his parachute regiment was disbanded, on February 29, 1944, he was transferred to Company E, Second Battalion, Twenty-eighth Marines, Fifth Marine Division. This company landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. Mount Suribachi, the 550-foot-high extinct volcano on the southern end of the island, was assaulted by the Twenty-eighth Marines on February 20. By mid-morning of February 23 they had reached the top of Suribachi and defeated the last Japanese defenders. Six marines raised a small flag to signal their victory to their fellow soldiers below. Later, a second, larger flag (ninety-six by fifty-six inches) was raised. Corporal Block helped with the second flag by stooping and guiding the base of the pole into the volcanic ash while the other five men heaved the flag upward. As the flag rose Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph. Corporal Block, however, never saw the famous picture. He was killed in action on March 1, 1945, when his unit advanced in the direction of Nishi Ridge. He was buried in the Fifth Marine Division Cemetery near the base of Mount Suribachi; in January 1949 his body was taken home for private burial in Weslaco. In 1995 Block's body was moved from Weslaco to the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima. He is buried beside the Iwo Jima Memorial on the academy grounds.
Support Texas History Now
Join TSHA to support quality Texas history programs and receive exclusive benefits.
- World War II
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
David V. Stroud, “Block, Harlon Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 20, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/block-harlon-henry.
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.