Lt. Col. Alfred Carroll. (Photo Credit: Joe Rosenthal/Associated Press)
Lt. Col. Alfred "Al" Carroll was a young Marine when he witnessed five men lift the American flag above Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945, during World War II. Carroll died Wednesday. He was 91 years old.
A funeral service was held on Monday at the Leak Memorial Chapel. He was preceded in death by his wife of 62 years, Doris Carroll, and is survived by his daughters, Sandra Howie, Cynthia Wood and Susan Mustin, seven grandchildren and eight great-grand children.
Carroll was only a mile away when the iconic photo was shot of Iwo Jima as five U.S. Marines and one sailor raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi during World War II. The flag could be seen on top of the mountain, rising 500 feet in the air.
Carroll told the Montgomery Advertiser in previous interviews that a celebration erupted down below.
"When the flag went up, it was almost like a football game with all the cheering," Carroll said. "You could hear them all over the island and ships blowing their horns."
Al Carroll talks about his experiences during World War II on Feb. 19, 2015, at his home in Montgomery, Ala. Photo Credit: Mickey Welsh/Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser
Born in 1925 on a farm in Clayton, north of Montgomery, Carroll entered the Marine Corps at age 18 after he and his two older brothers heard that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. His sisters served in the medical field.
He was 20 and serving in the Marine 4th Division when the flag was raised. Iwo Jima was bombed 70 straight days by B-24s and is considered the bloodiest battle of the war in the Pacific. Carroll would never miss an opportunity to recognize his friends who lost their lives there when sharing his own story.
"My buddies paid the supreme sacrifice and did not have the chance to have a family and come back home like I did," Carroll said. "I've been blessed all my life."
Carroll returned to the island in 1980.
Discharged in 1946 as a corporal, Carroll began working for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., in 1947 before returning to Alabama. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Auburn University and taught criminal justice for 20 years.
He continued to serve in the military for a total of 40 years and retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel in 1978. Carroll retired from the USAFR as a civilian 10 years later.
This article was written by Rebecca Burylo, Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, October 3, 2016 and originally published by MarinesCorpsTimes.com on October 3, 2016.