Place of birth Weslaco, Texas
Place of death KIA, Iwo Jima
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch USMC logo.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1943-1945
Unit 28th Marines
Battles/wars World War II
*Battle of Bougainville
*Battle of Iwo Jima
Harlon Henry Block (November 6, 1924 – March 1, 1945) was a United States Marine during World War II. Born in Texas, Block joined the Marine Corps in November 1943 and subsequently saw action during the Battle of Bougainville and the Battle of Iwo Jima where he was killed in action. He is best known as one of the six men photographed raising the flag on Iwo Jima.
Block was born in Yorktown, Texas and was raised in Weslaco, Texas, the third eldest of the five sons and one daughter of Edward Frederick Block and Ada Belle Block, a family of Seventh day-Adventists. In hopes of improving the family farming fortunes, the Block family moved to Weslaco, a small town in the middle of the Rio Grande Valley. The family became dairy farmers and the children went to a Seventh-day Adventist School. Harlon Block was kicked out when he refused to tell the principal who had vandalised a school building. Block then transferred to Weslaco High School where he was an outgoing daredevil with many friends. A natural athlete, Block led the Weslaco Panther Football Team to the Conference Championship. He was honored as "All South Texas End."
 Entry into the Marine Corps
Block and twelve of his teammates enlisted in the Marine Corps through the Selective Service System at San Antonio on February 18, 1943. After basic training in San Diego, he took parachute training and qualifying as a Paramarine, and was promoted to Private First Class, on May 22, 1943.
He was sent to the Pacific, and arrived at New Caledonia on November 15, 1943, where he joined the Headquarters and Service Company of the 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, I Marine Amphibious Corps. He fought on Bougainville after landing there on 21 December. He returned to San Diego, where the Marine Parachute Regiment was disbanded on February 29, 1944. He joined Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, and was promoted corporal on October 27, 1944.
 The Battle of Iwo Jima
Block landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945, and was involved in the second flag-raising on Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945. As a corporal, he was second-in-command of his squad to Sergeant Mike Strank at Iwo Jima. He idolized Strank, and as written in the book "Flags of Our Fathers" followed Strank without question. Block took over the leadership of his squad when Sergeant Strank was killed, but Block was himself killed by a mortar blast just hours later on the same day, March 1, as the squad attacked toward Nishi Ridge. His last words were "They Killed Me!".
Flag raising controversy
After the battle, there was controversy as to the identity of the Marine who planted the flag in the famous photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. When his mother saw Joe Rosenthal's iconic flag raising photograph in the Weslaco newspaper on February 25, just two days after the photo was taken, she immediately exclaimed, "That's Harlon", pointing to the figure on the far right. However, Rene Gagnon mistakenly identified the figure as Sergeant Hank Hansen of Boston, another Paramarine who was involved in the first flag-raising earlier that day, but who was not included in the famous photograph. John Bradley concurred with Gagnon at that time.
A photo to show all six men
Belle never wavered in her belief that it was Harlon insisting, "I know my boy", but no one believed her. Some eighteen months later, a Congressional investigation revealed that it was indeed Block and not Hansen in the photograph. Fellow Paramarine Ira Hayes was instrumental in proving Block's involvement in the famous photo, and in the end, both Gagnon and Bradley agreed that "it could be Block." In fact, Hayes had told Marine officials that the sixth flag raiser was Block, but since the Marines had already made announcements that Hansen had been identified, he was told not to make waves.
Block was originally buried in the 5th Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima, and then re-interred in Weslaco in January 1949. His body was moved in 1995 to a burial place near to the Iwo Jima Monument in Harlingen, Texas, near the Marine Military Academy.