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Iwo Jima soldier, former SLT resident dies

Associated Press file photoRaymond Jacobs, who identified himself as a Marine radioman on Mount Suribachi on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, and who lived in South Lake Tahoe until his home was destroyed in June's Angora fire, has died. He was 82.
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REDDING – Raymond Jacobs, believed to be the last living Marine photographed during the original flag-raising on Iwo Jima during World War II, has died. He was 82.

Jacobs died Jan. 29 of natural causes at a Redding hospital, his daughter, Nancy Jacobs, told the Redding Record Searchlight. He had lived in South Lake Tahoe but moved after losing his home in June to the Angora fire.

Jacobs spent his later years working to prove his claim: that he was the radio operator photographed gazing up at the American flag as it was being raised by other Marines over Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945.



Newspaper accounts from the time show he was on the mountain during the initial raising of a smaller American flag. But he had returned to his unit by the time a more famous AP photograph was taken of a flag-raising re-enactment later the same day.

The Tahoe Daily Tribune and The Associated Press both wrote stories about Jacobs in 2005 and 2006, when the issue over the Iwo Jima flag-raising photograph came to light.



In November 2006, Jacobs and 13 other men were honored at the Marine Corps Museum outside Washington, D.C. At the ceremony, a painting of the famous scenes was unveiled, with each of the survivors signing their names to it.

“It’s a real honor and breakthrough to be asked,” Jacobs told the Tribune in 2006.

The radioman’s face isn’t fully visible in the first photograph published by Lou Lowery, a photographer for Leatherneck magazine, leading some veterans to question Jacobs’ claim.

But other negatives from the same roll of film show the radioman is Jacobs, said retired Col. Walt Ford, editor of Leatherneck.

“It’s clearly a front-on face shot of Ray Jacobs,” Ford said.

Annette Amerman, a historian with the Marine Corps History Division, said in an e-mailed statement that “there are many that believe” Jacobs was the radioman. “However, there are no official records produced at the time that can prove or refute Mr. Jacobs’ location.”

The man with a radio on his back usually had been identified as Pfc. Gene Marshall, a radio operator with the 5th Marine Division, who died in 1987. The other men involved in the raising all have died, including Charles Lindberg of Minnesota, who died last year.

Jacobs was honorably discharged in 1946. He was called up during the Korean conflict in 1951 before retiring as a sergeant, his daughter said.

He was born Jan. 24, 1926, in Bridgeport, Conn. He retired in 1992 from KTVU-TV in Oakland, where he worked 34 years as a reporter, anchor and news director.

Jacobs was diagnosed with cancer seven days after the Angora fire, his daughter told the Tribune. He and his wife moved to Redding to live permanently in August. Ray was having a home built there. He had lived in South Lake Tahoe since 2001, where he and his family lived on Mount Diablo Circle.

This month, Ray was to attend the 63rd anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima in Arlington, Va., his daughter said. Because Jacobs lost all of his historic photographs from the flag-raising, as well as subsequent magazine and newspaper clippings in last June’s fire, several surviving Marines had collected photo copies, pictures and even money to give to Jacobs to help recover some of the losses from the fire.

A service will be held later this spring.


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