The Photographer

By Lizabeth S Tucker

"Hey, boss, did you see this?" Tony handed a newspaper to Leroy Gibbs, ex-Marine.

Gibbs held the paper at arm's length as he read the headlines and looked at the photograph accompanying the article. His face tightened as he read. He looked up at his senior agent and nodded. "Thanks, DiNozzo."

Tony watched Gibbs walk out of the room and enter the elevator before turning back to his computer.

Ziva David, an Israeli Mossad agent seconded to NCIS for the duration, looked from the dark haired agent to where the older man had disappeared through the elevator doors. "What was in the newspaper?"

"Joe Rosenthal died Sunday," came the quiet reply.

Ziva searched her memory for an NCIS agent by that name, but came up empty. "Did he work here?"

Tim McGee looked up from his own computer keyboard. "He wasn't an agent, he was a photographer."

"And why was Gibbs bothered by his death? This is a man he knew?"

"In a way," replied Tony. "Rosenthal took what is probably the most famous Marine photograph in the world, the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima."

"Ah, I believe I know that photograph. This Rosenthal, this photographer, he was a U.S. Marine?"

"Nope, actually he was just an Associated Press photographer who happened to be in the right place at the right time." Tim walked to Gibbs' desk, pointing to a small picture pinned to the bulletin board. "Here it is."

Ziva joined him, looking closely at the small photograph. "It is a most remarkable picture. I believe I saw a similar one after your World Trade Towers collapsed."

"Yeah, three firefighters raising a flag up a remaining flagpole."

"Who were these men?"

"There were six men total, five Marines and one Navy corpsman. Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon H. Block, Private First Class Franklin R. Sousley, Private First Class Rene A. Gagnon, Private First Class Ira Hayes, and Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class John H. Bradley, USN." Gibbs had returned, accompanied by their medical examiner, Doctor Ducky Mallard.

"Ira Hayes, that name is familiar." Ziva frowned, trying to place him in her memory.

"Ira Hayes became quite famous after that photograph was seen around the world. He was a Native American or, if you prefer, American Indian," Ducky explained. "He had quite a hard life after he came home from the war, dying very young."

"How young?" Tim asked, not knowing the names of the men involved in the raising.

"Just 32. He fell prey to alcoholism, unfortunately all too common a situation for Indians in those days. I believe he died of hypothermia after passing out in a ditch."

"What about the other men?" Ziva asked. "What happened to them?"

"Sousley was killed by a Jap sniper when he was 19, just before they were gonna bring him home. Bradley earned the Navy Cross when he ran to the aid of a wounded man despite heavy Japanese fire and pulled the man over thirty feet to safety. He was wounded himself soon after and came home. He died in 1994," Tony said, earning a surprised look from the others. "Hey, I read more than Playboy!"

Gibbs picked up the report. "Strank was killed by friendly fire from a Navy destroyer. His second in command, Block, was killed by mortar fire just a few hours after Strank."

"Michael Strank was actually born in Slovakia," Abby chimed in, having arrived to bring Gibbs requested lab reports and staying to listen. "Gagnon made it home alive and was sent around the U.S. with Ira Hayes and John Bradley to raise money for war bonds. I believe he died in 1979."

"He was the only one to try and cash in on his celebrity," Tony said. "Gagnon was in 'Sands of Iwo Jima' and 'To the Shores of Iwo Jima', two movies about the battle. Hayes was in them as well, both men playing themselves. Gagnon didn't really do too well afterwards, though."

"Do all Americans know so much of their history? I've never seen evidence of this in the past."

"That photograph was the image of the United States Marine Corps, so much so that a statue of it was made for the Marine Corps War Memorial. Every Marine knows their history. It's part of your education in the Corps during basic training," Gibbs replied. "Rosenthal wasn't officially a Marine, but we considered him an honorary one."

Tony shrugged. "I guess I know because it truly is an important event."

"Of course, the movie connection doesn't hurt either," Abby quipped. "Wasn't there a movie about Ira Hayes as well?"

"Yeah, 'The Outsider'; Tony Curtis played him."

"We really should go to O'Reilly's and raise a glass to him and the others," Abby suggested.

Gibbs looked at the Goth with approval in his blue eyes. "Good idea, Abs. Any of you who wish to join us can do so. Eight o'clock at O'Reilly's Pub." He moved around to sit at his desk. "But until then, we have work to do. Get to it, people!"

The End

August 2006

A/N: Sorry for those who were looking for a case. The more I heard about Rosenthal's death in the news, the more I wondered what Gibbs would say about it. The facts stated are, to the best of my knowledge, all correct.