LOS ANGELES – Alan Wood never claimed to be a hero, but he did play a supporting role in one of World War II’s most stirring moments.
It was at Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945. Straining into the wind, five Marines and a Navy corpsman planted the Stars and Stripes on the rocky peak of Mount Suribachi. As the flag unfurled, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured what may have been the war’s most iconic image, a shot that inspired monuments and made the Iwo Jima flag-raisers instantly famous.
Wood, a 22-year-old Navy officer, wasn’t among them. But it was Wood who provided the flag — a small act that would always remind him of the epic sacrifices made by so many on that desolate island 750 miles south of Tokyo.
“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 endure any such hell,” he wrote in a 1945 letter to a Marine general who asked for details about the flag.
Wood, who went on to spend nearly five decades as a technical artist and public information officer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge near Los Angeles, died April 18 at his Sierra Madre home. He was 90 and had congestive heart failure, his son, Steven Wood, said.
Wood was in charge of communications on LST-779, one of many landing ships that disgorged tanks and construction equipment on Iwo Jima’s shores.