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First Name: Franklin

Last Name: Sousley

Birthplace: Hill Top, KY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Runyon

Date of Birth: 19 September 1925

Date of Death: 21 March 1945

Rank: Private First Class

Years Served:
Franklin Runyon Sousley

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Franklin Runyon Sousley
Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps

Franklin Runyon Sousley was born on 19 September 1925 in Hill Top, KY, the second child born to Merle Duke and Goldie Mitchell Sousley. When he was three years old, his five-year-old brother, Malcolm Brooks Sousley, died due to appendicitis. Franklin attended a two-room schoolhouse in nearby Elizaville, and attended Fleming County High School in nearby Flemingsburg from ninth to twelfth grade. His younger brother, Julian, was born in May 1933, and his father died due to diabetes complications a year later, at age 35. At only nine years old, Franklin was the sole male-figure in the family, and assisted his mother in raising Julian. Julian died in a car accident on 4 October 1951 at the age of 18.

Military Service

Sousley graduated from Fleming County High School in May 1943, and resided in Dayton, OH, as a worker in a refrigeration factory. He received his draft notice, and chose to join the U.S. Marine Corps in early 1944, and underwent extensive combat training as a member of the U.S. 5th Marine Division. Sousley landed on Iwo Jima in February 1945, and participated in the battle for the island. Alongside John Bradley, Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon, Harlon Block, and Michael Strank, he assisted in raising a replacement flag on Mount Suribachi, an iconic photograph immortalized by Joe Rosenthal.

Sousley was to be returned to Washington, DC, for a War bond tour alongside John Bradley and Rene Gagnon. (At that time Gagnon, under threat from Ira Hayes, had not revealed Hayes' participation in the flag raising.) According to Shadow of Suribachi: Raising the Flags on Iwo Jima by Parker Bishop Albee, Jr. and Keller Cushing Freeman, when the word reached Iwo Jima, Sousley was on a dangerous part of the island, and his company commander, Captain Dave Severance, decided it was safer to leave him where he was than attempt an extrication under the conditions.

According to James Bradley's Flags of Our Fathers, on 21 March 1945, PFC Sousley was shot in the back by a Japanese sniper, as he was walking down an open road on the nearly-secured island. A fellow Marine witnessed Sousley lying on the ground and asked, "How bad are you hit?" Sousley's reply and last words were reportedly, "Not bad, I can't feel a thing." However, Ron Elliott's From Hilltop to Mountaintop shows an affidavit signed by Rene Gagnon reporting that "Sousley was killed instantly."

Medals and Awards

Purple Heart (posthumously)

Presidential Unit Citation with 1 Star (for Iwo Jima)

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 1 Battle Star (for Iwo Jima)

World War II Victory Medal


A small memorial exists for him in the Fleming County Public Library, Flemingsburg, KY.

Portrayal in Film

Franklin Sousley is featured in the 2006 Clint Eastwood film, Flags of Our Fathers, and was portrayed by American actor, Joseph Michael Cross. The film is based on the book of the same title.

In the 1961 film, The Outsider, the fictional character, James B. Sorenson, played by James Franciscus was based on Sousley.

Death and Burial

Private First Class Franklin Runyon Sousley was killed in action on 21 March 1945 in Japan. Originally buried on the island of Iwo Jima, his remains were re-interred on 8 May 1947 in Elizaville Cemetery in Elizaville, Fleming County, KY.

Honoree ID: 3100   Created by: MHOH




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