102-Year-Old Marine Veteran Who Was at Iwo Jima Laid to Rest, Honored in San Diego

by Lauren Boisvert

Colonel Dave Elliott Severance passed away at the age of 102 in San Diego; he was a WWII veteran and part of the unit that raised the flag at Iwo Jima. That image became a symbol of hope and strength for the Marine Corps during WWII.

In his decades-long Military career, Colonel Severance served in 69 combat missions, became a pilot, and flew both propeller and jet fighter planes in the Korean War. John Caroll, of whom Colonel Severance was commanding officer, spoke well of him, saying, “Just an overall great Marine.”

Colonel Severance is survived by his wife and four children. He and his wife lived in La Jolla, California. On September 15, a private service was held at Miramar National Cemetery.

The Significance of Iwo Jima

February 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the famous photo of Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima. U.S. Marines from the 28th regiment raised the flag after successfully taking the island. That image has come to represent the war in the Pacific.

U.S. forces decided to capture Iwo Jima–part of the Bonin Island chain and only 2 and a half by 5 miles across–instead of bypassing it on the way to Japan; the U.S. decided to repurpose its airfields. The American Military used the “island-hopping” strategy in the Pacific. This entailed fighting on small Pacific islands in order to move in on Japan.

At Iwo Jima, the Americans took major losses; Japan’s kamikaze fighters took out numerous ships, and instead of fighting on the beaches, the Japanese forces positioned themselves deep inland. It took 4 days, February 19 to 23, for Marines to capture the peak of Mount Suribachi. There, the six men–5 Marines and 1 Navy Corpsman–of the 28th regiment raised the flag. Photographer Joe Rosenthal eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for the image.

The flag-raising was not the end of the fight for Iwo Jima. Nevertheless, newspapers and magazines reproduced the image countless times, raising the morale of both soldiers and civilians back home. It represented the strength of will, determination, and the country’s resolve. The fighting at Iwo Jima lasted another month; the conflict ended on March 24, with 200 of the initial 20,000 Japanese troops left alive. The U.S. also took incredible casualties, losing 6,000 with 25,000 injured.

But, the photo of the flag-raising lives on as one of the more, if not most, famous images from WWII. The image still represents America’s determination to persevere against seemingly unconquerable odds. When you search for “famous American photos”, Iwo Jima comes up first, alongside the moon landing, “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange, and the flag-raising on Ground Zero. Its impact is still felt 76 years later.