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Hero
An Island in WWII

The Associated Press may own the copyright, but I own the actual photograph. I'm not really sure why I bought it, though. You can't even see the faces of the six people in it. I'm told their names were Ira, Mike, Franklin, Harlon, Rene and John, but that's not really important. Ultimately, it's just a photograph of six people doing something that people do every day.

But for them to do it that day was crazy. The photographer who took the photo was crazy and I was crazy to buy it. I do crazy things sometimes. I'll bet you do, too. And like me, you probably have no better explanation than "It seemed like the right thing to do at the time." Fortunately, Pennie tolerates my irresponsible behavior. Maybe she even loves me for it. That's one of the many advantages of marrying your best friend.

But I really do like this photo. It's special, somehow. Beyond the fact that three of the six people in it died shortly after the photographer's shutter went "click," the photo is unique because everything about it was an accident and Accidental Magic is the theme of my collection. This particular accident happened when a photographer named Joe Rosenthal heard a noise and swinging his camera toward it, pressed his finger on the camera's shutter unintentionally and captured a millisecond of history by accident. The millisecond happened on Feb. 23, 1945. The photo is called Raising the Flag Over Iwo Jima.

I bought the photo, through a broker, from the estate of John Faber, the man who became the official historian for the National Press Photographers Association in 1956. Faber kept the job and the photograph until the day he died. Faber had obtained the photo from Joe Rosenthal, the Associated Press photographer who had actually snapped it. In the preface of his 1977 book, Great News Photos and The Stories Behind Them, Faber writes, "Assembling this book has been a series of unforgettable experiences for me. I listened again to my tape recording of Joe Rosenthal describing, in his humble way, the day he made the Iwo Jima Flag Raising picture..."

Gosh I wish I could find that tape.

I really do hope that you'll come to visit us sometime and take a long, hard look at this picture. It's a photo that speaks of all the best in us - heroism, sacrifice, principles and honor. But it also speaks of the worst - anger, violence, killing and war. Yes, there are two ways of looking at this photo. There are two ways of looking at everything. Wisdom is often found in the ability to look at a thing from both sides and not feel like you have to choose between them. It is perhaps that very tension that makes the photo a profound and powerful millisecond of history.

In his book, Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley opens with a quote from a Japanese man, Yoshikani Taki, who said, "Mothers should negotiate between nations. The mothers of the fighting countries would agree: Stop this killing now. Stop it now." What makes James Bradley's use of this quote particularly interesting is that the man in the center of the Iwo Jima photograph was James Bradley's father, John, and it was the ancestors of Yoshikani Taki that John Bradley had been sent to Iwo Jima to kill.

Our spinning world is an interesting place, but you've got to hang on tight.

Roy H. Williams


PS - On July 1, 2002, a time capsule landed in my office that had been launched into the future by John Faber and Joe Rosenthal on March 24, 1957, using a device that had only recently become available to the public. This mysterious time capsule arrived in a flat, round metal can.

The events that led to this flying saucer landing in my office began in October, 1999, when I published the above Monday Morning Memo. In it I wrote, "In the preface of his 1977 book, Great News Photos and The Stories Behind Them, Faber writes, 'Assembling this book has been a series of unforgettable experiences for me. I listened again to my tape recording of Joe Rosenthal describing, in his humble way, the day he made the Iwo Jima Flag Raising picture...'"

The following paragraph was my 8-word statement, "Gosh I wish I could find that tape."

Miraculously, the flying saucer that landed on my desk contained an extremely fragile, reel-to-reel tape labeled, Iwo Jima Flag Raising - Joe Rosenthal interviewed by John Faber on 3-24-57 in Washington, DC." The amazing David Nevland was able to digitally re-master the tape and now CD's of this historic interview are available at www.WizardAcademyPress.com "Hear the man who took the photo of Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima describe exactly what took place on that fateful day.



~ Roy H. Williams

To view the archives click here.

Invisible Heroes is a collection of more than 100 biographical stories written by Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads. You can read a few of these stories in the archives of this web page, but most of them are inaccessible because they're soon to be published in a book.

We create our heroes from our hopes and dreams. And then they create us in their own image.Heroes raise the bar we jump and hold high the standards we live by. They're the embodiment of all we're striving to be.

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