Florida’s Ernest “Boots” Thomas & the Flag at Iwo Jima In World War II

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A group of people posing for a photo
Sgt. Boots Thomas of Monticello (seen standing in front of the flagpole) helped raise the first American Flag at Iwo Jima. (State Archives of Florida/Lowery)

Sergeant Ernest Ivy “Boots Thomas Jr., who grew up in  Monticello, Florida, was one of the men who helped raise the first American Flag at the top of Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. The flag was replaced with a second larger flag that same day. The raising of that second flag was captured in iconic video and photos.

A group of soldiers in front of an American flag.

Sgt. Boots Thomas of Monticello (seen standing in front of the flagpole) helped raise this first American Flag at Iwo Jima. (State Archives of Florida/Lowery)

Thomas was killed in action on March 3rd which was 8 days after the flag raising and 7 days before his 21st birthday.

a woman in black stands next to a tall man in a suit. Both are looking at an American flag in a glass case.
The mother of Ernest “Boots” stands in front of a World War II flag display at with Florida Governor Millard Caldwell. (State Archives of Florida)

  In addition to a memorial on Highway 90 near Monticello placed in his memory, the VA clinic at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs office in Tallahassee is named after Thomas.

A person standing in front of a building
Monument to Ernest “Boots” Thomas on Highway 90 in Monticello, Florida (State Archives of Florida)

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Suzanne Smith is Executive Producer for Television at WFSU Public Media. She oversees the production of local programs at WFSU, is host of WFSU Local Routes, and a regular content contributor.

Suzanne’s love for PBS began early with programs like Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and continues to this day. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri with minors in political science and history. She also received a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of Florida.

Suzanne spent many years working in commercial news as Producer and Executive Producer in cities throughout the country before coming to WFSU in 2003. She is a past chair of the National Educational Telecommunications Association’s Content Peer Learning Community and a member of Public Media Women in Leadership organization.

In her free time, Suzanne enjoys spending time with family, reading, watching television, and exploring our community.