The flag silhouette appeared overnight Saturday atop a construction mound in northeast Bakersfield.
It remained up over the long Veterans Day weekend, but by daybreak Tuesday, it was gone. Vanished in the dark of night.
Inspired by the famed photograph shot by Joe Rosenthal in 1945 showing a group of U.S. Marines and a Navy corpsman raising an American flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, the silhouette — at Highway 178 and Comanche Drive — motivated many to stop and snap photos of the installation placed atop a mountain of fill dirt at the vacant corner.
"I think it's a great tribute to the veterans and am proud it is displayed on our quiet side of town," said Ajaib Gill, a resident of nearby City in the Hills.
Many of his neighbors feel the same way, Gill said.
Still, the question remains: Who is daring enough to climb a mound of dirt in the dark of night to install the image — and polite enough to remove it before crews returned to work on Tuesday?
"I'm not a service member, but it is most definitely the coolest thing," said Lili Marsh, the founder of Honor Flight Kern County.
"I love that it's a secret," she said. "The mystery is half the fun."
Indeed, on social media posts, there's been plenty of speculation about who is responsible.
After sniffing around for answers, this reporter received a call from someone who said he would speak openly about it, but only on condition of anonymity. It's not a condition that is often granted by this newspaper's editors, but in this case, it was.
"We wanted to honor the men of Iwo Jima and all vets," the anonymous source said of their motivation.
The tradition of placing the flag silhouette at that same corner has been ongoing for close to 15 years, he said. It was begun by someone else, but the project was handed over to him — and he and various partners in crime have completed the task nearly every year, although not always on Veterans Day.
"There are a lot of conspiracy theories," the man said, laughing.
Like guerrilla operatives working under cover of darkness, the pair understand they're in violation of private property laws — and they feel bad about it, he said. But not bad enough to stop.
"We've been up there in hurricane-force winds," he said. "And some nights were so cold it felt like the frickin Arctic Circle."
But it really means something to them, he said. And they hope it means something to the people who see it.
It does mean something to David Torres, a local attorney who served in the Marine Corps as an enlisted man before accepting a commission in the Army Infantry. Torres eventually retired from the military as a judge advocate.
"The flag raising at Mount Suribachi is symbolic of the tenacity, ferocity, pride and tradition of the Marine Corps," Torres said.
"More than 6,000 Americans died in the Battle of Iwo Jima, and in the end, the Marines overcame a well-entrenched Japanese defensive position.
"I applaud the intrepid individuals who took the time and energy to honor not only the Corps, but all veterans who fought and died for our country," he said.
The sight of that famous flag being raised atop Mount Suribachi may be symbolic of the Corps, Torres said. But overall, it is synonymous with America.
"If my opinion carried weight, I would agree to keep the monument up on that mountain in Kern County forever."