World War II United States Marine. He was one of the six Marines to be photographed raising the second United States flag on Mount Suribachi during the February-March 1945 Battle for Iwo Jima island. The event was captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, and became one of the most famous pictures in history. Born Mychal Strenk in Jarabenia, Czechoslovakia, his family immigrated to America in 1920, changing their family name to Strank, and passing through Ellis Island to Franklin Borough, Pennsylvania, about two miles east of Johnstown, where his father found work in the coal mines that feed the steel mills there. Growing up in America, he quickly learned English, having a photographic mind. Graduating from high school in June 1937, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) a month later, rather than follow his father into the mines or to the steel mills. At the end of two years, in October 1939, he enlisted into the United States Marine Corps, having developed a liking for military discipline in the CCC. Later, his fellow marines would often describe him as a "Marine's Marine"- he was always there for them, leading them in the task they had to do, leading his men by personal example. After boot camp at Parris Island, he was assigned to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then returned to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he was promoted to Corporal. In February 1942, he was promoted to Sergeant and assigned to the 1st Marine Raiders, considered one of the toughest Marine outfits at that time, and fought at Pavuvu and Bougainville in the 3rd Marine Division. Following Bougainville and a 30-day leave, he was reassigned to the newly forming 5th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California, becoming a part of E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment, which was slated for the upcoming invasion of Iwo Jima. The invasion force of 70,000 marines landed on February 19, 1945, on the south side of the island, with Sergeant Strank landing at Green Beach, closest to Mount Suribachi. On the fourth day of the invasion, the Marines captured Mount Suribachi and raised an American flag. Just after noon on February 23, 1945, Sergeant Strank, Corporal Harlon Block, Corporal Harold P. Keller, Private Ira H. Hayes, Private Franklin R. Sousley and USMC Pvt. Harold H. Schultz planted a larger, more easily seen flag. Although none of them thought anything extraordinary about that flag raising, photographer Rosenthal had gotten a series of pictures of it, and it was also filmed by Marine cameraman Bill Genaust. When those pictures were published, the image of the six men became one of the most iconic of the entire conflict, and won Joe Rosenthal the Pulitzer Prize. Sergeant Michael Strank, however, was killed in action by an artillery shell a week later, as his company was attacking at the western end of the island. First interred on Iwo Jima, his remains were returned to the United States to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. His life was detailed by author James Bradley (son of flag raiser John Bradley) in the 2000 work "Flags of Our Fathers," and he was portrayed by actor Barry Pepper in the 2006 motion picture of the same name.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson
SGT, US MARINE CORPS WORLD WAR II