Flag raising on Iwo Jima. February 23, 1945. Joe Rosenthal, Associated Press. (Navy) From the crest of Mount Suribachi, the Stars and Stripes wave in triumph over Iwo Jima after U.S. Marines had fought their way inch by inch up its steep lava-encrusted slopes.
Flag Raising at Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal, February 1945
Surely the most famous image of the war, reproduced in many forms a victory stamp and the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, to name two. In one of the bloodiest campaigns of the American drive through the Central Pacific, the Marinese captured Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945. When they raised the flag on Mount Suribachi, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped off this shot. Unaware of its impact, he sent the negative to his wire service. The editors spotted it instantly as a moving, memorable image, of American resolve, tenacity, and victory. Within hours, it was all over the front
pages of the nations newspapers.
And, no, it was not staged. The actual story has led to some confusion over the years. As soon as Mount Suribachi had been somewhat secured, some Marines raised a flag. It was a small flag, not too imposing from a distance. The commanders ordered a second, larger flag to replace it. Six Marines (Doc Bradley, Mike Strank, Rene Gagnon, Harlon Block, Ira Hayes, and Franklin Sousley) were assigned to put up the larger flag. Photographer Joe Rosenthal went along. It was still quite dangerous, as Japanese snipers lay concealed all over the island.
The flag-raising party made it to the top without incident, and Rosenthal caught the famous image, quite hastily, as he had been distracted moments before the famous event. His original caption: Atop 550-foot Suribachi Yama, the volcano at the southwest tip of Iwo Jima, Marines of the Second Battalion, 28th Regiment, Fifth Division, hoist the Stars and Stripes, signaling the capture of this key position.
The son of one of the flag-raisers, James Bradley, has written an excellent book, Flags of Our Fathers, about the men involved, their service leading up to Iwo Jima, the events surrounding the flag raising and the famous photo, and the life of the men afterwards