I haven't had a chance to see Flags of Our Fathers yet, but one of the fellows who's featured in the film and planted the flag on Iwo Jima was Ellis Island immigrant, Michael Strank. He is remembered by many as a Marine's Marine, and sadly lost his life shortly after the famous photo was taken.
Articles and books constantly note him as being Czech or Slovak. In fact, on page 231 of James Bradley's book, Flags of Our Fathers, it states, "The Czech immigrant to America, born on the Marine Corps birthday, serving his third tour of duty for his adopted country, the sergeant who was a friend to his boys, was cut down by friendly fire."
Michael Strank was indeed an immigrant. I've been including his passenger arrival record in my Ellis Island talk for years, and now you can find it included with other patriots on the Ellis Island site (he's the second one listed on the page). If you take a look at his record, you can see toddler Michael arriving with his mother. You can also find Michael with his family in Franklin, Cambria County, PA in the 1930 census (search for 10-year-old Michael or his father, Wasil Strank, at Ancestry.com to see for yourself). And yes, these record note the place of origin as Czechoslovakia, so in a sense, all the articles and books are right.
He was born in Czechoslovakia -- but just barely. Michael is noted as having been born on November 10, 1919 in Jarabina. Czechoslovakia was formed on October 28, 1918. Michael's parents -- Vasul & Marta -- had married just a week earlier on October 21, 1918 (see below). So they married in Austria-Hungary and were living in Czechoslovakia a week later -- although they probably never left their house. This is typical of Eastern Europe. Boundaries and names change so often that you can stay in one place your whole life and still manage to live in several countries.
Here's what I'd like to point out about the image above. It's the marriage of Michael's parents -- and took place in a Greek Catholic church. This is an absolute giveaway that they were Carpatho-Rusyn. Yes, they lived in a place that was about to be incorporated into a new country called Czechoslovakia, but they were Rusyn.
If I seem a little sensitive on this, it's because I'm half-Rusyn and we Rusyns have a history of others claiming our most notable members. Andy Warhol was Rusyn, but is often identified as Czech or Slovak. Sandra Dee was Rusyn. Same pattern. Robert Urich -- half-Rusyn. Almost always identified as Slovak. And now it's happening again with Michael Strank. I'm pleased to see that some fellow Rusyns have infiltrated Wikipedia and claimed Michael, so now I'm adding my voice out there in cyberspace. Just maybe if enough of us associate the word "Rusyn" with Michael, it will start to stick!