When Fr Charles Suver was 38 years old, he was assigned to the 5th Marine Division as one of their chaplains. It was the height of the World War II, and Fr Suver’s boys were assigned to take on the Japanese on a little island named Iwo Jima.
The night before they landed, the Marines knew what faced them the next day – 23,000 Japanese troops headed by one of their most capable generals. They knew that a difficult and bloody day was coming with the sunrise. A group of the men hunted down Fr Suver to talk about what lay before them, pray a bit, and calm their nerves.
At some point of the evening, one of the younger officers said that he wanted to bring an American flag with him so that it could be raised on Mount Suribachi.
A certain Lieutenant Haynes replied, “Okay, you bring the flag, and I put it up there.”
To which Fr Suver said, “You put it up there, and I celebrate a Mass under it!”
Fr Suver said Mass onboard the boat that morning at 5:30, and then went ashore with his men on the most dangerous beach, Green Beach. During the days of terrible fighting, Fr Suver helped where he could at the aid station and administered the Sacraments to those who had fallen.
On the fifth day, Fr Suver noticed that the men were making their way steadily up Mount Suribachi. He called to his assistant to grab the bag containing all the supplies he would need to celebrate Mass, and ran towards the mountain. He reached the top minutes after the flag was raised.
Surrounded by Marines, with the sounds of the ongoing battle filling his ears, Fr Suver celebrated Mass for the approximately twenty Marines on top of Mount Suribachi. It was the first Mass ever celebrated on Iwo Jima.