Michael Strank documentary

Penn State-Altoona history professor Jared Frederick holds a vintage view camera similar to the one used to take the famous photograph of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima, depicted on the wall at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. Frederick, show Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 at the War Memorial, is helping develop a documentary film about Franklin native Michael Strank, who participated in the battle and flag-raising.

Production on the Michael Strank documentary continues to make strides.

On Tuesday, Wix Pix Productions was in Johnstown filming a few segments for “Our Flag Still Waves,” which will tell the story of Czechoslovakian immigrant and Franklin Borough resident Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Stank.

Strank became nationally known after he helped plant a U.S. flag on Iwo Jima during a pivotal World War II battle.

A photo, snapped by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, captured the event that took place on Feb. 23, 1945.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning image is recognized across the world, but Strank never learned of his fame because he was killed in combat only a few days after he raised the flag with five other Marines.

Former Gov. Tom Ridge will serve as the narrator of the film. Ridge recorded his part at his office in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

“I am delighted to be participating in the production of the Michael Strank documentary,” he said in a prepared statement. “Like millions of others throughout the decades, I have drawn inspiration from the photograph of that flag raising and from the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington.

“The USA can only continue to be ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ as long as immigrant patriots like Mike Strank continue to love their country more than life itself.”

Dale Wicks, Wix Pix president, said the company has been working on the project since February and staffers have conducted numerous interviews, gathering information on Strank from people who knew him.

“We want to tell the story of one local kid who loved his country,” he said.

Jared Frederick, a history professor at Penn State-Altoona, filmed three stand-up spots at area locations that focus on a specific topic.

In the Cambria County War Memorial Arena lobby, in front of the photo of the flag raising, Frederick discussed on how difficult it was to operate a speed graphic camera, which captured the iconic photo.

At the Inclined Plane, Frederick said the hill where the incline sits happens to be the same height as Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi - around 540 feet - where the flag was planted.

The last filming location was at the Point Stadium, where Frederick pointed out that the stadium’s capacity of 6,800 matches the number of Marines killed on Iwo Jima.

“We’re filming in different locations because we want to make this as visually interesting as we can,” Wicks said.

Frederick said he’s had a lifelong interest in World War II history. After reading a newspaper article on the Strank documentary, he contacted Wicks to see if he could be of assistance.

“For me, as a teacher, this will allow my students to understand that World War II was fought and won by people their age and helps them connect with Michael Strank,” he said. “It gives local stories more meaning.”

Plans are currently in the works to unveil the finished film in February at the War Memorial Arena during a special ceremony.

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.

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