Rene Gagnon was born March 7,1925 in Manchester, New Hampshire to Henri Gagnon and Irène Marcotte, the only son of French-Canadian immigrants. He grew up without a father, his father and mother separated after his birth. In 1943, he was drafted during World War II and selected to join the United States Marine Corps. He made history on February 23,1945, when he was one of the six flag-raisers who helped raise the second U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi as shown in the iconic photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. He was a devout Catholic. He died on October 12,1979 in Manchester, New Hampshire. He was buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery and later interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.