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Old 03-27-2007, 06:09 AM
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Rene Arthur Gagnon, 53, Manchester, NH

Arlington National Cemetery

Rene Arthur Gagnon
Corporal, United States Marine Corps

Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps:
Rene Arthur Gagnon, participant in the famous flag raising on Iwo Jima, was born at Manchester, New Hampshire, on 7 March 1926. He attended the schools of Manchester and completed two years of high school before leaving to take a job with a local textile mill. On 6 May 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 16 July 1943, was transferred to the Marine Guard Company at Charleston, South Carolina, Navy Yard. 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 8 April, he was transferred to Company E, 2d Battalion, 28th Marines.

After training at Camp Pendleton and in Hawaii, Gagnon landed with his unit on Iwo Jima on 19 February. After Iwo Jima was secured, he was ordered to Washington, D.C. arriving on 7 April. Together with the other two survivors of the flag raising, Pharmacist's Mate John Bradley and 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 Seventh War Loan Drive.

He finished the tour on 5 July and was ordered to San Diego for further transfer overseas. Private First Class Gagnon was married to Miss Pauline Georgette Harnois, of Hooksett, New Hampshire, in Baltimore, Maryland, on 7 July.

By September, he was on his way overseas again, this time with the 80th Replacement Draft. On 7 November 1945, he arrived at Tsingtao, China, where he joined Company E, 2d Battalion, 29th Marines, 6th Marine Division. He later served with the 3d Battalion of the same regiment.

On duty with the U.S. occupation forces in China for nearly five months, Private First Class Gagnon boarded ship at Tsingtao at the end of March 1946, and sailed for San Diego, arriving on 20 April.

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 and discharged on 27 April 1946. He was entitled to wear the Presidential Unit Citation with one star (for Iwo Jima), the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one star (for Iwo Jima), the World War II Victory Medal, and the China Service Medal.

Corporal Gagnon died on 12 October 1979 in Manchester, New Hampshire, and was buried at Mount Calvary Mausoleum. At his widow's request, Gagnon's remains were reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery on 7 July 1981.
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He died At home, Hooksett, New Hampshire, October 12, 1979. He was one of the U.S. servicemen who raised the flag on Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945. He was brought to the United States for a publicity tour and to encourage sale of war bonds. He later served in China until discharged. He was originally buried in Mount Cavalry cemetery in his hometown. He was ineligible for burial in Arlington National Cemetery, but was granted a waiver on April 16, 1981, and moved to Section 51 of Arlington on July 7, 1981.
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News Report:
October 28, 1990: The widow of one of six US servicemen immortalized as they raised the American flag on Iwo Jima during WWII faces eviction from the home the war hero helped build 40 years ago.

Pauline Gagnon had planned to turn the home, which includes her travel agency, into a museum for her husband's pictures, war medals and a flag that flew over Iwo Jima. But she ran into financial trouble, and the house was sold at a foreclosure auction during the summer. She's been living there while she fights in court to overurn the sale.

Her troubles are the latest for the family of war hero Rene Gagnon, who died of a heart attack at age 54 in 1979.

Gagnon, who once said being a war hero was a blessing and a curse, was troubled by alcohol abuse throughout his life. His drinking got him fired from one job on Memorial Day in 1978. In an interview Pauline Gagnon said her husband was proud of the home and would be heartbroken to see it taken from her.

The photograph of her husband and his companions struggling to raise the flag still is on display in the house. She said her husband, a Marine, never overestimated his wartime contribution, despite the celebrity it brought him. "He said he just did his job," she said. "They just said, Go do it,' and he did."

According to accounts from Iwo Jima, three Marines were trying to hoist the makeshift flagpole on February 23, 1945, but it was too heavy. Two more joined in, and then someone called Gagnon. As the six raised the pole, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal took what became the most famous photograph of the war. It became the model for the Iwo Jima Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial commemorates the 5,931 Marines who died taking the Pacific island.

Pauline Gagnon, who declined to give her age, blamed her current plight on a slowing economy and an overzealous buyer. She mortgaged her home when her business slowed, saying she planned to pay off the mortgage by selling some of the land. She couldn't win approval of her plans. She maintains in court that Resource Financial Group, which sold the mortgage, and 2 women who bought it took advantage of her plight. She has asked the court to reverse the sale and release her from the mortgage.

Born on March 7 1926 in New Hampshire, he was one of the U.S. servicemen who raised the American flag on Mount Suibachi over the Island of Iwo Jima while the battle was raging there on February 23, 1945 during World War II.

He was brought back to the United States for a publicity tour and to encourage the sale of war bonds. He later served in China until his discharge from the Marine Corps.

The famous photograph of the raising appeared on both U.S. postage stamps and war bonds and is the subject of the Marine Corps War Memorial adjacenet to Arlington National Cemetery.

He died at Hooksett, New Hampshire, on October 12, 1979 after having suffered from years of alcoholism and unemploment that his family attributed to his unwanted fame. He was originally buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery in his hometown because his was technically inelligible for burial in Arlington. However, a waiver was granted on April 16, 1981 and he was reinterred in Section 51 of Arlington National Cemetery on July 7, 1981.

Two other "flag-raisers" are buried in Arlington: Sergeant Michael Strank and Corporal Ira Hamilton Hayes.
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The youngest of the flag-raisers, and the one who actually carried the flag up Mount Suribachi, Rene Arthur Gagnon was not quite 19 when the famous photo was taken. He was born at Manchester, New Hampshire, on 7 March 1926, the son of Henry Gagnon and Irene Yvonne Gagnon. He attended the schools of Manchester and completed two years of high school before leaving to take a job with a local textile mill. On 6 May 1943, he was inducted into the Marine Corps Reserve and sent to Marine Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.
From Parris Island, Private First Class Gagnon, promoted on 16 July 1943, was transferred to the Marine Guard Company at Charleston, South Carolina, Navy Yard. 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 8 April, he was transferred to Company E, 2d Battalion, 28th Marines.

After training at Camp Pendleton and in Hawaii, gagnon landed with his unit on Iwo Jima on 19 February. After Iwo Jima was secured, he was ordered to Washington, arriving 7 April. Together with the two other survivors, Pharmacist's Mate Bradley and Private First Class Hayes, he was assigned to temporary duty with the Finance Division, U.S. Treasury Department, for appearances in connection with the Seventh War Loan Drive.

He finished the tour on 5 July and was ordered to San Diego for further transfer overseas. Private First Class Gagnon was married to Miss Pauline Georgette Harnois of Hooksett, New Hampshire in Baltimore, Maryland on 7 July.

By September, he was on his way overseas again, this time with the 80th Replacement Draft. On 7 November 1945, he arrived at Tsingtao, China, where he joined Company E, 2d Battalion, 29th Marines, 6th Marine Division. He later served with the 3d Battalion of the same regiment.

On duty with the U.S. occupation forces in China for nearly five months, Private First Class Gagnon board ship at Tsingtao at the end of March and sailed for San Diego, arriving on 20 April.

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 and discharged on 27 April 1946. Corporal Gagnon died on 12 October 1979 in Manchester, New Hampshire and was buried at Mount Calvary Mausoleum. At his widow's request, Gagnon's remains were reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery on 7 July 1981. Rene is the flag raiser buried closest to the Marine Corps War Memorial (a.k.a. Washington Iwo Jima Statue.)

Corporal Gagnon was awarded the following decorations and awards:

Presidential Unit Citation with one star (for Iwo Jima);
American Campaign Medal;
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one star (for Iwo Jima);
The World War II Victory Medal, and;
The China Service Medal.
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