Rene Gagnon

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René Arthur Gagnon

Rene Arthur Gagnon
Born(1925-03-07)March 7, 1925
Manchester, New Hampshire
DiedOctober 12, 1979(1979-10-12) (aged 54)
Manchester, New Hampshire
AllegianceUnited States United States of America
Service/branchUnited States Marine Corps USMC logo.svg
Years of service1943--1946
RankCorporal
Unit2nd Battalion 28th Marines
5th Marine Division
Battles/wars

World War II

 
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René Arthur Gagnon

Rene Arthur Gagnon
Born(1925-03-07)March 7, 1925
Manchester, New Hampshire
DiedOctober 12, 1979(1979-10-12) (aged 54)
Manchester, New Hampshire
AllegianceUnited States United States of America
Service/branchUnited States Marine Corps USMC logo.svg
Years of service1943--1946
RankCorporal
Unit2nd Battalion 28th Marines
5th Marine Division
Battles/wars

World War II

René Arthur Gagnon (March 7, 1925 – October 12, 1979) was one of the U.S. Marines immortalized by Joe Rosenthal's famous World War II photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.

Contents

Early life

Gagnon was born March 7, 1925 in Manchester, New Hampshire, the only child of French Canadian immigrants from Disraeli, Quebec, Henri Gagnon and Irène Marcotte. René grew up without a father. His parents separated when he was an infant, though they never divorced. When he was old enough, René worked alongside his mother at a local shoe factory. He also worked as a bicycle messenger boy for the local Western Union. René was drafted in 1943 and elected to join the Marine Corps.

Marine Corps service

On May 6, 1943, he was inducted into the Marine Corps Reserve and sent to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. From Parris Island, Private First Class Gagnon, promoted on July 16, 1943, was transferred to the Marine Guard Company at Charleston Navy Yard in South Carolina. He remained there for eight months and then joined the Military Police Company of the 5th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California. Four days later, on April 8, 1944, he was transferred to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment. In September, the 5th division left Camp Pendleton for further training at Camp Tarawa, Hawaii, for the assault Operation Detachment on Iwo Jima by three Marine divisions of the V Amphibious Corps.

A diagram identifying all six men

Iwo Jima

On February 19, 1945 (D-day, Gagnon landed with the 28th Marines on "Green Beach 1" on the southeast side closest to Mount Suribachi on the southern end of Iwo Jima. Four days later - though with much fighting still ahead - Gagnon participated in what was most likely the most celebrated flag raising in U.S. history. After the event, Gagnon recalled:

"On the morning of February 23 when the Colonel ordered these four men to take up the flag, they started going up and the communications were faulty between the top and the bottom of the mountain and they ordered me to take up the radio battery. When I got up there the four-man patrol with the flag had just got up there and they were about ready to put it up and when I got up I delivered the battery and then I went over to them and I was watching them put up the flag and the very heavy Japanese pipe…it weighed quite a lot…so they said lend a hand…so I just got into it. [...]"

Bond tour

After Iwo Jima was secured, he was ordered to Washington, D.C., arriving on April 7. Together with the other two survivors of the second flag raising, Navy Pharmacist's Mate John Bradley and Marine Private First Class Ira Hayes, he was assigned to temporary duty with the Finance Division, U.S. Treasury Department, for appearances in connection with the "7th War Loan" drive (bond selling tour) in May and June 1945. The tour was through several major U.S cities raising billions of desperately needed dollars to help win the war.[1]

China

In July 1945, he was ordered to San Diego for further transfer overseas. Gagnon married Pauline Georgette Harnois, of Hooksett, New Hampshire, in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 7, 1945. By September, he was on his way overseas again, this time with the 80th Replacement Draft. On November 7, 1945, he arrived at Tsingtao, China, where he joined Company E, 2nd Battalion, 29th Marines, 6th Marine Division. He later served with the 3rd Battalion of the same regiment. On duty with the U.S. occupation forces in China for nearly five months, Gagnon boarded a ship at Tsingtao at the end of March 1946 that was bound for San Diego.

Discharge

He arrived in San Diego on April 20. With nine days short of three years' service in the Marine Corps Reserve, of which 14 months was spent overseas, Gagnon was promoted to Corporal. Gagnon was honorably discharged at Camp Pendleton, California, on April 27, 1946.

Rank and military awards

CPL Gagnon's Awards and Decorations at the time of his discharge from the Marines.

Post-war

He appeared in two films about the battle: To the Shores of Iwo Jima (a government documentary which simply showed the color footage of the U.S. flag raising) and Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), the latter with fellow surviving flag raisers Bradley and Hayes. He was also part of a Rose Bowl half-time show. However, in the end, it amounted to almost nothing, and left him bitter and an alcoholic. He worked at menial jobs, but was fired from most of them, the last one on Memorial Day, 1978.[citation needed] He died in October the next year at age 54, of a heart attack. In his last job, he had worked as a janitor at an apartment complex in Manchester.[citation needed] As recorded in the book Flags of Our Fathers, in his latter years Gagnon only participated in events that were at his wife's urging, events praising the U.S. flag raising on Iwo Jima. She enjoyed the limelight, whereas he, by that time, no longer did.

At the age of 53, he bitterly inventoried his lost 'connections' - the jobs promised him by the government people when he'd been at the height of his fame, jobs that never materialized. "I'm pretty well known in Manchester," he told a reporter. "When someone who doesn't know me is introduced to me, they say 'That was you in The Photograph?' What the hell are you doing working here? If I were you, I'd have a good job and lots of money.'"

[3]

Death

Rene Gagnon died on October 12, 1979 in Manchester, New Hampshire. He was buried at Mount Calvary Mausoleum. At the request of his widow, his remains were re-interred in Section 51, Grave 543 of Arlington National Cemetery on July 7, 1981. Gagnon is also memorialized in a special room at the Wright Museum of WWII History in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.[4]

Portrayal in film

See also

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
  1. ^ Video: Funeral Pyres of Nazidom, 1945/05/10 (1945). Universal Newsreels. May 10, 1945. http://www.archive.org/details/1945-05-10_Funeral_Pyres_of_Nazidom. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  2. ^ Public Law 106-65--Oct. 5, 1999, 113 Stat. 588, G
  3. ^ Bradley, James and Ron Powers. Flags of Our Fathers, 2000. ISBN 0-553-11133-7
  4. ^ Rene Gagnon, he was Canadian http://forums.canadiancontent.net/lounge/51882-rene-gagnon-he-canadian.html

External links