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Joe Rosenthal

Joe Rosenthal


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Joseph John Rosenthal was born in Washington on 9th October, 1911. His parents were immigrants from Russia. He had a strong interest in photography and after finishing college joined the Newspaper Enterprise Association in San Francisco before becoming a staff photographer with the San Francisco Examiner.

On the outbreak of the Second World War Rosenthal applied to join the US Army as a military photographer. Rejected because of his poor eyesight, Rosenthal was eventually sent to cover the Pacific War by the Associated Press. In March 1944 he photographed the American progress toward Japan, including the invasions of Guam, New Guinea and Guadalcanal.

Rosenthal was at Iwo Jima and took some very dramatic pictures of the invasion. On February 23, 1945, while on the top of Mount Suribachi, Rosenthal took one of the most famous photographs of the war: Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima. Of the six soldiers, three were killed within the next few days.

The Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima, was published throughout the world. Rosenthal was later accused of staging the photograph. In fact, this was untrue. "On February 23, having captured Surabachi, a small volcanic hill and the highest point on the island, some marines raised a small flag at its summit. They were photographed by Sergeant Louis Lowery for the marine magazine, Leatherneck. Rosenthal, having talked with Lowery, decided to get a shot of the flag himself. When he arrived, he found the marines raising a larger flag, attached to a pole so heavy it took six men to lever it into place in a small mound of rocks. He stepped just inside the volcano's crater and snapped the photo with his Speed Graphic."

After the war Rosenthal became chief photographer and manager of Times Wide World Photos. Later he worked for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Joseph John Rosenthal died on 20th August, 2006.

The picture of the raising of the Stars and Stripes on the top of Mount Suribachi was published throughout the world. It was taken by an Associated Press photographer, Joe Rosenthal. Later it was established that this was not a photograph of the original event. The first flag-raising was photographed by S/Sgt Louis R. Lowery, working for the Marines' magazine Leatherneck. While the ceremony was taking place, a hidden Japanese survivor threw two grenade at the group on the summit. The first grenade blew up the flag; the second fell at the feet of the photographer. Lowery dived down the steep side of the dormant volcano, rolling some 50 feet before he stopped, having dislocated his side and breaking his cameras. Later the same day a second raising of the flag was arranged, using a larger flag. This time a far more powerful an carefully worked-out picture was shot by Rosenthal. It was this second picture, not the one taken by Lowery - which was also preserved - that gained the fame.

At first no one was aware of the subterfuge. The picture was taken at its face value - as a very good piece of photojournalism. However, when it was disclosed that it was not in fact the picture of the original flag-raising, an argument arose as to its authenticity. If it is considered to be a fake, undoubtedly we are emotionally liable to view the picture with less interest and enthusiasm. But it was not intended to mislead the public, nor, do I think, did the photographer himself perpetrate the myth of the picture in any way. It was a genuine reconstruction of a real event, mainly occasioned by the belief that the original picture had been lost.

Of all the thousands of news pictures published in the American press during World War II, none was better known, more celebrated, and more frequently reproduced than his Pulitzer Prize-winning shot of six battle-weary soldiers straining to raise the American flag on Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945.

Brilliantly composed, this image possessed every element that a war photograph could want - a dramatic sense of action, sculptural clarity, and heroic patriotism. When the photograph arrived in the United States, it required but one glance on the part of editors to tell them that here was a picture worth featuring prominently.

Behind Rosenthal's picture is a story fraught with a number of ironies. To begin with, when Rosenthal looked back on his eleven days of recording the battle for Iwo Jima, it was not that image for which he had the greatest professional fondness. Rather it was one taken in the first hours of the invasion. Landing on the island's beaches hard on the heels of the first wave of marines, Rosenthal had found himself, like the armed men around him, dodging a stiff barrage of enemy fire. Seeking picture opportunities while remaining mindful of the need to find cover, he was darting from shell crater to shell crater when he spotted the bodies of two dead marines. In that moment, he conceived the idea for a photograph intended to evoke the essence of what he was witnessing. Thus, bringing the bodies of the two fallen men into his camera's focus, he waited for an advancing marine to come within view, and when one did, he took a picture that, in his estimation at least, embodied the "honest ingredients" of what the Iwo Jima story in its early phases was all about - the dead paving the way so that the living might follow.

Despite the forethought that went into that beach picture, the resulting image did not seemed contrived, which is probably one of the chief reasons why Rosenthal took special pride in it. On the other hand, his picture of the flag-raising on Mount Suribachi four days later - which, in its compositional perfection, did seem contrived and led to conjectures by some that it had to have been carefully posed.

The raising of the American flag over Mt Surabachi, on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, is one of the world's great war photographs, and perhaps the most heroic image in American history. The picture, of five marines and a navy corpsman lifting the pole over a battle-scarred landscape, was taken by Joe Rosenthal, who has died aged 94, and who was a combat photographer only because he had been rejected by the army because his eyesight was so bad.

Cropped for dramatic effect from the original, more panoramic view, the image became an immediate sensation. Its dynamic thrust seemed to symbolise the inevitable victory in the Pacific for a war-tired nation.

It won Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize, was used on recruiting posters and issued as a stamp, though US law prohibits images of living people on stamps. Three of the marines had been killed later in the fighting on Iwo Jima; the three survivors were brought back to America, feted as heroes, and used as the focus of an immensely successful war bond drive. They re-enacted the raising as part of the 1949 John Wayne film, Sands Of Iwo Jima, and their image became the model for the Marine Corps memorial at Arlington National Cemetery...

Rosenthal often had to face accusations that he had staged the photograph, but they arose from a misunderstanding. He had landed with the marines in the original assault on February 19 1945. On February 23, having captured Surabachi, a small volcanic hill and the highest point on the island, some marines raised a small flag at its summit. They were photographed by Sergeant Louis Lowery for the marine magazine, Leatherneck.

Rosenthal, having talked with Lowery, decided to get a shot of the flag himself. He stepped just inside the volcano's crater and snapped the photo with his Speed Graphic. Rosenthal never claimed this was the original moment of combat, but the picture itself was neither posed nor staged. It did, however, mean Lowery's photo would be forgotten.


Joe Rosenthal

Rosenthal was born October 9, 1911 in Washington D.C. to Russian Jewish immigrants. During the Great Depression, he traveled to San Francisco to live with his brother and look for work. He developed an interest in photography, and his hobby soon led to employment as a reporter photographer for the Newspaper Enterprise Association.

At the onset of World War II, Rosenthal applied to join the U.S. Army as a military photographer. He was rejected by the military because of his poor eyesight, but was eventually assigned by the Associated Press to cover the war in the Pacific. He quickly distinguished himself as an outstanding battlefield photographer in arenas including New Guinea, Guam and Angaur before landing on Iwo Jima with the first wave of Marines on February 19, 1945.

Rosenthal used his bulky Speed Graphic, the standard camera for press photographers of the day, to record dramatic photos of the beach landing while he dodged enemy fire alongside the troops. Four days later, after suffering terrible losses on the battlefield, a platoon of 40 men were sent to secure Mount Suribachi, a volcano and Japanese stronghold located at the southern tip of the island. Upon reaching the summit, a small American flag was raised, the first foreign flag ever to fly over Japanese soil. The historic event was documented by Sgt. Lou Lowery, who shot both posed and unposed photos of the men and the flag for Leatherneck magazine while thousands of Marines and Navy corpsmen cheered from below.

Rosenthal had learned that a flag was to be raised on Suribachi, but he and two other photographers arrived too late to record the event. Upon arrival at the summit, however, they saw that a second, much larger flag was about to be raised. Since he was only five-foot-five inches tall, Rosenthal stacked stones and a sandbag to stand on in order to improve the shooting angle from his vantage point. Using a shutter speed of 1/400 and an aperture of about f.11, Rosenthal photographed the six Marines and one Navy corpsman struggling to plant the huge flag in the rocky ground. Unsure if he had recorded a useable image, he then posed the flag raisers, grouped under the flag in what Rosenthal described as a “gung-ho” picture. Except for the three photographers and the men who had raised the second flag, few paid attention to the proceedings. In the view of the men on the battlefield, the first flag-raising was historically significant, not the replacement, and the battle for control of the island continued.

Share history with the world at IPHF.

Rosenthal returned to the command ship and as usual wrote captions for the photos he had taken that day. For the flag raising photos, he wrote, “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 film was then shipped to the military press center in Guam where it was processed, edited and transmitted via radio to the mainland. It arrived in time to be on the front pages of Sunday newspapers across the country. He was quickly wired a congratulatory note from Associated Press headquarters in New York, but initially Rosenthal had no idea which of his pictures had created such a sensation. He simply assumed it was the posed “gung-ho” image, and when someone asked if the photo had been posed, he answered, “Sure.”

The photograph appeared almost immediately in retail store windows, movie theaters, banks, factories, railroad stations and billboards. The men who raised the flag in Rosenthal’s photograph were ordered home and were treated to a hero’s welcome, but only three had survived. President Franklin Roosevelt made the photograph the theme for the Seventh War Bond Tour, which raised $26 billion for the U.S. Treasury, more than any other bond tour. Just five months after the flag-raising, a stamp commemorating the photograph was issued, even though U.S. law prohibits images of living people on stamps. The photograph won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945, and was the model for the 110-feet tall bronze Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. Lowery’s photograph, along with the men who raised the first flag, were virtually forgotten. The final American casualties from the battle were recorded as 6,621 dead and more than 19,000 wounded.

After the war Rosenthal joined the San Francisco Chronicle, where he worked for 35 years before his retirement in 1981. Rosenthal was named an honorary Marine in 1996 by then Commandant of the Marine Corps General Charles C. Krulak. Reporters interviewed him extensively after September 11, 2001, when a photograph similar to Rosenthal’s was taken depicting the raising of the flag by three firefighters at the World Trade Center.

Throughout his life, Rosenthal continued to battle the rumor that he somehow staged the flag-raising picture or misrepresented the photo as the first flag-raising. He repeatedly explained that he posed only the “gung-ho” photograph, and denied any deception on his part. Most available historic evidence supports his assertions. Eddie Adams, another former AP photographer, explained, “It has every element…It has everything. It’s perfect: The position, the body language…You couldn’t set anything up like this — it’s just so perfect.”

In spite of the fame that came with the photograph, Rosenthal made little money from it. He received a $4,200 bonus in war bonds from the AP, a $1,000 prize from a camera magazine, and about $700 for a few radio interviews. His name does not appear on the Marine Corps statue until 1982.

Following his death in 2006 at the age of 94, he was awarded the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award by the Marine Corps. The Hollywood film Flags of Our Fathers recounts the story behind the photograph and its impact on six men, one photographer and an entire nation.


Was this iconic World War II photo staged? Here's the heroic true story.

The inspiring image lifted the spirits of a nation—and raised suspicions that it was too good to be true.

On February 23, 1945, six U.S. Marines planted an American flag atop a battle-blasted hill on the island of Iwo Jima, a fiercely defended Japanese stronghold. Photographer Joe Rosenthal got lucky and captured the moment in a single, immortal image. Within weeks the photograph became the theme of the U.S. Government’s seventh War Bond drive. A postage stamp bore the image. The scene has been reenacted multiple times on screen.

Most enduringly, perhaps, a monumental sculpture of the flag raising, based entirely on Rosenthal’s Associated Press photo, stands guard above the Potomac River across from Washington, D.C.

And it’s all because Rosenthal swung his bulky Graflex 4x5 camera in the right direction at the right split-second and snapped the shot—without even looking through his viewfinder.

The resulting photo is so perfect—in capturing an essential moment, in depicting the courage and camaraderie of fighting men, in meeting virtually every time-honored standard of artistic composition—that for the rest of his life, Rosenthal had to rebut charges that he set up the whole thing.

In fact, on that day—five days into one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War—Rosenthal had just one thing on his mind as he scrambled up the stony, volcanic slope. “As the trail became steeper,” he later said, “I began to wonder and hope that this was worth the effort.”

It was, even though Rosenthal showed up too late, yet right on time.

Before he reached the summit of Mount Suribachi’s 554-foot volcanic cone, a team of Marines had already raised a small U.S. flag. Marine photographer Staff Sergeant Louis Lowery snapped the moment when the makeshift flagpole was erected, but the sight of that flag drew a volley of fire from Japanese troops. While diving for cover, Lowery broke his camera, so he headed down the hill to get new equipment. Along the way he met Rosenthal, still struggling to get to the top, and gave him the bad news: The flag was already up.

Still, Rosenthal pressed on, hoping to get some good shots from the summit. When he got there, he noticed a team of Marines preparing to raise a second, larger flag, on orders from Marine brass, who wanted it to be visible from all over the island.

War photographers almost never get second chances at great shots, but Rosenthal knew he had one here. Now he was in a race against time, trying to get a good vantage point in the seconds before the second flag was raised. Frantically, the five-foot-five photographer piled up some sandbags to stand on.

“I’m not in your way, Joe, am I?” asked a movie cameraman on the scene. Rosenthal turned to look at him—and nearly missed the shot of the century.

The U.S. Army had rejected Rosenthal as a photographer because he had poor eyesight. But it’s reflexes that make a war photographer, and Rosenthal’s were catlike. Through one corner of his eye he caught sight of the Marines raising the fluttering flag. In one movement he turned, raised his camera, clicked his single shot, and left the rest to fate.

Reflexes or not, Rosenthal couldn’t be sure he’d gotten his shot. The film in his camera would be flown to Guam for processing, then sent via telephoto equipment to his editors in San Francisco.

For insurance, Rosenthal got 16 Marines and two Navy corpsmen to pose triumphantly around the flag. Among them was Ira Hayes, a Pima Native American who was also in the iconic first shot. (He’s the Marine at far left whose hands have just let go of the flagstaff.)


The Story Behind the Two Flag-Raisings at the Battle of Iwo Jima

Joe Rosenthal missed the moment when United States Marines first raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The Associated Press photographer was still climbing up the mountain at the time.

But when Marines raised another flag, he was there to capture the image for the ages. And he would spend the rest of the war arguing over whether he'd staged the second raising.

Fighting on Iwo Jima lasted 36 days, but it took the Marines only five days to reach the top of the eight-square-mile island's highest point, Mount Suribachi. Almost from the get-go, the fighting was brutal. Japan had a year to reinforce the island with tunnels carved into the mountainside, hidden artillery positions and a network of reinforced bunkers.

Allied bombing and naval barrages could do nothing to soften up the island's defenses for the attacking Marines. When they landed, they were facing the full force of its Japanese defenders, who were willing to fight to the death for every inch of volcanic rock.

So when the Marines topped Suribachi and planted the first flag, it was a huge boon to the Marines fighting below and the sailors offshore. The ships blew their horns when they saw the flag. Gunfire and cheers erupted from the sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen fighting below.

Gunfire also erupted from the Japanese soldiers, who saw the flag as just a new target atop the island's highest peak. After the flag was raised, a hail of bullets came in around the Marines on Mount Suribachi.

Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Lowery of Leatherneck Magazine was there to capture the first raising, but had to dive for cover when the enemy started shooting. His camera was broken in the fall, and he had to go back down the mountain to get new gear. On his way to the rear, he passed Rosenthal and his Graflex 4x5 camera. The AP representative was about to get something few war photographers ever did: a second chance at capturing the moment.

By the time Rosenthal reached the top, the first flag was still there. Like any good photographer, he waited around to see what came next. He didn't have to wait long.

After seeing how the American troops responded to the first flag being raised, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Chandler Johnson ordered a new, larger flag to be raised over the battlefield. This 96x56-inch flag would be one that could be seen across the island.

Rosenthal was present for this flag-raising. But he almost missed the second moment too.

Marine Sgt. William Genaust was filming the moment and asked Rosenthal whether he was in his way. The AP photographer turned to look at Genaust and realized the Marines were raising the flag.

He had to snap the now-iconic photo without looking into the viewfinder. His next shot was a group photo of 16 Marines and two Navy corpsmen around the raised flag.

"Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen the men start the flag up," he later told Colliers Magazine. "I swung my camera and shot the scene. That is how the picture was taken, and when you take a picture like that, you don't come away saying you got a great shot. You don't know."

Rosenthal sent the photo to be processed on Guam, where it was quickly sent out to The Associated Press in New York. Within 17 hours of the flag-raising, the photo was on the newswires -- and on the desk of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

It would win a Pulitzer Prize for photography in 1945 and became a symbol of the enduring spirit of United States Marines.


The Story Behind The Flag Raising on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal (1945)

What’s up photography fans! It’s Martin from the All about Street Photography channel and today I want to talk about a very famous picture taken by Joe Rosenthal, a picture that represented a symbol of unity in the Second World War and earned him a Pulitzer Prize. Let’s take a look at Flag Raising on Iwo Jima.

The picture we are looking at is called the Flag Raising on Iwo Jima and was taken by Joe Rosenthal (who was working for The Associated Press at that time). It was taken in 1945 on a small but important Japanese island in the Pacific Ocean five days after the Marines landed there. The Island was important since the United States troops needed it as an airbase as it was a strategic piece of land 750 miles south of Tokyo. Joe Rosenthal just came to the top of Mt. Suribachi -- the highest point on the island -- when a group of American Marines after heavy fighting just raised a flag of the United States. The flag, however, was too small, so they decided to replace it with a larger one, so it could be seen from much larger distances to boost the morale of soldiers and demoralize the enemies. Six Marines were assigned to put up the larger flag.

So Rosenthal positioned himself to have a better framing for the act of flag raising with his big Speed Graphic camera which was actually standard for press photographers at the time. He was there with a marine photographer, Sgt. Bill Genaust, who had a motion picture camera and stood right next to Rosenthal when the flag went up. Rosenthal took one of the most iconic pictures of the Second World War.

Flag Raising on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal (1945)

“Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera and shot the scene. That is how the picture was taken, and when you take a picture like that, you don’t come away saying you got a great shot. You don’t know.” - Joe Rosenthal

Joe Rosenthal (1911 - 2006)

It was published 2 days later across the United States and the photo became one of the most re published and recognizable images. Rosenthal later recalled he did not realize the picture he just shot was anything special until he started receiving congratulations and even then he was not sure which picture was it. Millions of people actually saw the picture almost a week before he did.

It was also replicated in a sculpture at the U. S. Marine Corps War Memorial. The Post Office Department chose Flag Raising on Iwo Jima to honor the United States Marine Corps on a postage stamp, the flag itself still exists and is displayed in the national museum of Marine Corps. Sgt. Bill Genaust and 3 of the troops raising the flag later unfortunately died in the combat.

There is also a movie directed by Clint Eastwood based on a book written by James Bradley, the son of one of the flag-raisers. Let me know if you have seen that movie and what you think about it. Rosenthal was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1945 and the photo was selected among top 100 examples of journalism in 1999 by New York University. Rosenthal always denied the second flag raising was staged for him. He explained he would probably have ruined the photo if he attempted staging it by choosing fewer men and making sure their faces could be seen. The controversy started because Rosenthal actually staged a photo with the flag. But it was after the flag was already up a different photo where marines posed in front of the flag. When asked if the photo was staged, he answered, was thinking about the other photo. By the time he realized what photo was in question it was already too late and the damage was done. A special meeting was held in Washington between military officials, editors of Life and AP to solve the controversy once for good. In the end the came to the conclusion that the picture was not posed.


70 years ago, Joe Rosenthal took one of U.S. history’s great pictures


In this Feb. 23, 1945, file photo, U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise a U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima. (Joe Rosenthal/AP)

In the middle of the battle, Joe Rosenthal built a little platform of stones and sandbags at the top of Mount Suribachi to get a better camera angle.

Down below, U.S. Marines had been fighting the Japanese for control of the island of Iwo Jima for five days.

And on Feb. 23, 1945, five Marines and a Navy corpsman were about to raise a big flag on top of Suribachi to show that the Americans had the upper hand.

Rosenthal was a 33-year-old Associated Press war photographer who was a native of Washington. He wore glasses and a trim mustache, and he smoked with a cigarette holder. He was 5-foot-5.

He had come ashore four days earlier and had hauled his Speed Graphic camera up the mountain when he saw a small American flag flying from the top.

“What’s doing, fellas?” he said when he got up there, according to an interview posted on the Web site of the Newseum.

The Marines said they had been ordered to raise a bigger flag that could be seen better.

As Rosenthal mounted his homemade platform to catch the moment, a Marine movie cameraman, Bill Genaust, took a position beside him. “I’m not in your way, am I, Joe?” Rosenthal said Genaust asked him.

“No, that’s fine,” Rosenthal said, and suddenly spotting the flag, yelled, “Hey, there it goes, Bill!”

“I swung my Graphic around close to my face and held it,” Rosenthal said. “I could only hope that it turned out the way I looked at it in the finder.”

In that split second, Rosenthal, who died in 2006, took one of World War II’s greatest photographs, 70 years ago.

The Battle of Iwo Jima continued for several weeks beyond the day of the photo. It claimed the lives of about 20,000 Japanese and almost 7,000 Americans, including Genaust and three of the flag-raisers.


Who was Joe Rosenthal?

Born in 1911 in Washington, Rosenthal became a photographer and reporter for the San Francisco News in 1932. He joined the Associated Press staff in 1941 and in March 1944 was assigned to cover the Pacific fleet.

Hal Buell, retired photography director for the Associated Press, wrote a biography of Rosenthal.

He was about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and smoked cigarettes in a holder like President Franklin Roosevelt, Buell said in an interview.

&ldquoAs a man, he was quiet, he was soft-spoken,&rdquo Buell said. &ldquoIf you were going to meet with a group of war combat photographers &mdash he didn't fit the swashbuckling, raconteur model.&rdquo

The photo of the flag-raising was available to newspapers in the United States 17 and a half hours after it was taken. Its publication created a sensation, and Roosevelt ordered that the six men be identified and brought to Washington when the fighting ended.

Buell wrote about Rosenthal for Connecting, a newsletter prepared by AP retirees, in the issue dated Friday.

&ldquoIt's early March,&rdquo Buell wrote. &ldquoJoe Rosenthal arrives in Guam, a stopover while en route to Hawaii to make preparations for the Okinawa invasion. It's there, in Guam, where he first sees his Suribachi pictures. Fellow correspondents offer congratulations. A tearsheet of the Gung Ho photo is passed around. 'Did you pose it, Joe?' He says, he did. Then comes a tearsheet of the flag-raising picture. 'How about that?' No, didn't pose THAT one. Not a bad photo, though, says Joe . modestly.&rdquo

The Gung Ho photo shows 17 Marines raising rifles and helmets after raising the flag. Confusion over what Rosenthal meant &mdash and questions raised by a photographer who captured the first flag-raising and knew Rosenthal was not present for that moment &mdash were turned into a radio report that the flag-raising photo was staged.

Film taken at the moment of the second raising proved it was not, Buell wrote. And Rosenthal was brought to New York by AP, not to quiet the rumors but to receive a bonus of a year&rsquos pay and to tour for the seventh war bond sales drive, with his photo as the drive&rsquos logo.

The logistics of capturing the image to making the photo available from a raging battle to newspapers throughout the United States in such a short period of time was a notable achievement all its own.

The camera Rosenthal carried had a film pack that allowed for 12 exposures before reloading. Moving each frame into position took two to three seconds, Buell said. If he had been between photos the instant the pole was raised, it would not have been possible.

Then Rosenthal walked down the mountain, hitched a ride to the USS El Dorado, the invasion command ship, and packed his film for a ride on an amphibious plane to Guam to the Wartime Still Picture Pool.

There, the photo was developed and Jack Bodkin, an AP photo editor who had enlisted in the Navy and been assigned to run the pool, was watching over the incoming film.

&ldquoHe pulled the frame out of the ash, he put it in front of a light box with water still streaming out of the side, he said, &lsquoHere&rsquos one for all time,&rsquo&rdquo Buell said.

The photo was transmitted to San Francisco by RCA, then to AP as a radio photo negative, and a print was made. The print was distributed to all the news services that were members of the pool and arrived in time to make the front pages of newspapers on Sunday, Feb. 25, 1945.

After the war, Rosenthal worked for Times World Wide Photos before joining the San Francisco Chronicle, where he worked until his retirement in 1981. In 1996, he was made an honorary Marine.

Rosenthal died in 2006. To keep his memory alive, in 2017 the USMC Combat Correspondents Association asked the Navy to name a combat ship after him.


JOE ROSENTHAL: 1911-2006 / Photo was his fame -- his pride 'My Marines' / The image of flag going up on Iwo Jima was extraordinary

1 of 9 ** FILE ** In a file photo U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment of the Fifth Division raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945. Joe Rosenthal, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his immortal image of six World War II servicemen raising an American flag over battle-scarred Iwo Jima, died Sunday. He was 94. (AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal) JOE ROSENTHAL Show More Show Less

2 of 9 Chronicle phtographer Joe Rosenthal, who won a Pulitzer for his famous Iwo Jima flag raising photo in 1945. Photo credit: Associated Press Associated Press Show More Show Less

4 of 9 ** FILE ** President Truman is presented with a bronze statue modelled after Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal's photo of US marines raising the American flag on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, at the White House, in this June 4, 1945 file photo. From left, Truman, statue sculptor Felix de Weldon, and AP photographer Joe Rosenthal. De Weldon died Tuesday June 3, 2003 of natural causes. He was 96. (AP Photo/File) Show More Show Less

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe arrive back in San Francisco on January 24, 1954. They had just returned fromHawaii where they spent their honeymoon. San Francisco Chronicle Photo by Joe Rosenthal

7 of 9 San Francisco Giants Parade down Market St. in front of the Palace Hotel. San Francisco well wishers crowd the corner of Market and Montgomery St. to welcome the Giants to San Francisco. Photo by Joe Rosenthal JOE ROSENTHAL Show More Show Less

8 of 9 ** FILE ** In a file photo with the Iwo Jima Memorial in the background, Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Joe Rosenthal poses for photographers Wednesday, June 28, 1995 in Arlington, Va., during a ceremony honoring photographers who lost their lives covering military conflicts around the world. Rosenthal won a Pulitzer Prize for making the photo that the Iwo Jima Memorial is modeled after. Rosenthal died Sunday, Aug. 20, 2006. He was 94. (AP Photo/Doug Mills) DOUG MILLS Show More Show Less

Retired Chronicle photographer Joe Rosenthal, who won the Pulitzer Prize and international acclaim for his soul-stirring picture of the World War II flag-raising on Iwo Jima, died Sunday in Novato.

Rosenthal, 94, retired from The Chronicle in 1981 after a distinguished 35-year career and many professional honors, but the flag-raising picture was his masterpiece for which he will always be remembered.

The Pulitzer Committee in 1945 described the photo as "depicting one of the war's great moments," a "frozen flash of history."

Rosenthal, born Oct. 9, 1911, in Washington, D.C., was found dead at about 10:45 a.m. in his bed at his home in the Atria Tamalpais Creek assisted living center.

He was a 33-year-old Associated Press photographer on Feb. 23, 1945, when he captured the black-and-white image of five battle-weary Marines and a Navy corpsman struggling to raise a flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

He took the picture on the fifth day of the furious 36-day battle that left 6,621 American dead and 19,217 wounded. All but 1,083 of the 22,000 dug-in Japanese defenders were killed before the island was secured.

It was of that battle -- one of the bloodiest in Marine Corps history -- that Adm. Chester Nimitz, World War II commander of the Pacific fleet, said: "Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue."

Wartime Navy Secretary James Forrestal said of Rosenthal: "He was as gallant as the men going up that hill."

The photo was an instant classic and is the best-known combat photo of World War II, and perhaps the most famous photograph ever taken.

The image is still regarded as a symbol of the fighting spirit of the Marine Corps.

Even more than half a century later, Rosenthal's picture retains its emotional power as a work of art as well as a patriotic icon. It has been reproduced on postage stamps, calendars, newspapers, magazines and countless posters. The picture was used as an inspirational symbol for a War Bond drive in 1945 that raised $26.3 billion.

The flag-raising picture was the model for the gigantic bronze Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Va., which stands 110 feet tall from base to flag top and weighs more than 100 tons.

The photo was so dramatic and perfectly composed that some believed Rosenthal must have posed the figures.

"No," Rosenthal told a friend in recent years. "It was not posed. I gave no signal and didn't set it up. I just got every break a photographer could have wished for. If I set it up I probably would have ruined the shot. I was lucky."

But it was the luck of a fearless photographer who went into the thick of battle "to get where the action is, where pictures happen themselves, and all I had to do is point the camera," as he said, with typical modesty.

Unable to serve in the military because of bad eyesight that plagued him until his death, Rosenthal shot World War II as a combat photographer, first with the merchant marine and later as an Associated Press correspondent.

Few veterans of the war saw as much action, close-up, as Rosenthal. He crossed the North Atlantic in a convoy of Liberty ships that was attacked by German U-boats. He was in London during the Blitz.

He photographed Gen. Douglas MacArthur's Army fighting in the jungles of New Guinea. He cruised into battle in the South Pacific aboard a cruiser, a battleship and an aircraft carrier. He flew with Navy dive-bombers attacking enemy targets in the Japanese-occupied Philippines.

He hit the beaches with the first waves of Marines landing under fire on the islands of Guam, Peleliu, Angaur and Iwo Jima.

In Colliers Magazine 10 years later, Rosenthal wrote of going ashore on Iwo Jima with "those kids looking at me. It was grim. I stuck my index fingers up in front of my glasses and moved them like windshield wipers as if to clear the spray. The kids smiled, and then we ducked our heads and the boat beached."

When the Marines assaulted the sulfurous island on Feb. 19, 1945, Rosenthal was among the first ashore. "The situation was impossible," he recalled years later. "No man who survived the beach can tell you how he did it. It was like walking through rain and not getting wet."

When Rosenthal and a squad of Marines climbed to the top of Mount Suribachi on the fifth day of fighting, he was disappointed to find a small American flag already flying over the 546-foot volcano's summit.

He missed the picture of the first flag-raising a few hours earlier, but then he saw five Marines and a corpsman hoisting another, larger flag that could be seen all over the 7 1/2-square-mile island.


Photo History: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

The historical importance of a photograph can be measured by how well it is recognized by the average person—neither historian nor photographer. If the “man on the street” sees a photograph and recognizes its context and the significance of its context, that’s an achievement. Few photographs are more widely recognized and have had a greater impact on events than Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal.

In a previous Photo History article, we examined the work of Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. Today, we recognize the work of Joe Rosenthal (1911-2006), the photographer who captured the famous WWII image Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima.

As famous as the image is, there are some things you might not know about Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima:

1. Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima actually depicts the second flag raised.

After the marines first raised a smaller flag, the Colonel in charge had a larger flag brought from one of the naval vessels surrounding the island of Iwo Jima. Joe Rosenthal was not present for the first flag raising. He noticed the larger second flag, folded, being brought to the top of Mount Suribachi, the highest point in Iowa Jima and its chief geological feature. It was even a source of irritation among some that the initial flag-raising–and the men in uniform who remained relatively anonymous–never received the recognition of the men in Rosenthal's photo.

2. U.S. and Japanese forces would fight the battle of Iwo Jima for another month after Rosenthal's image was taken.

Perhaps because raising a flag is so commonly associated with victory and the wartime necessity of claiming territory, the modern viewer might assume the February 23, 1945 photo came at the end of the brutal battle. However, the US forces–mostly Marines, but also Navy personnel–were still early into the battle of Iwo Jima, which lasted from February 18 to March 25, 1945. The main prizes of the island were the three Japanese-controlled airfields. Although the Marines had superior numbers, Japanese forces had the advantage of preparation. They had fortified their positions with tunnels and bunkers

3. Three of the flag raisers shown in Rosenthal's photo died in the battle of Iowa Jima.

Corporal Harlon Block, Private First Class Frank Sousley, and Sergeant Michael Strank were killed in action at Iwo Jima. This is a stark reminder that not only was the Rosenthal image not the end the battle of Iowa Jima, but the Marines suffered devastating losses there𔃄,821 killed and over 19,000 wounded. Japan suffered by some estimates three times as many dead.

4. Two of the flag-raisers in the image were misidentified for many years.

Sgt. Hank Hanson and PhM2c John Bradley were originally identified as two of the six flag-raisers at the harrowing 1945 battle. The figure originally thought to be Hanson was later identified as Corporal Harlon Block in 1947.

But the second misidentified figure, first thought to be Navy Corpsman John Bradley, took a bit longer to identify. Bradley did not discuss his war-time experiences readily. John Bradley died in 1994. His son James conducted interviews with all of the families of the soldiers involved in the flag-raisings at Iwo Jima. James's book, Flags of our Fathers, is considered by many to be the definitive work on the subject. It was adapted into a 2006 film, which was directed by Clint Eastwood.

The Marines released an official statement in 2016 that acknowledged that the figured believed for years to be John Bradley was actually Corporal Harold Shultz. Both Bradley and Shultz were present for the first flag raising, but Shultz also participated in the second.

5. Rosenthal was the first person to be awarded the Pulitzer for a picture in the same year it was taken.

Rosenthal was awarded the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for photography. This was the first time the prize had been given in the same year in which the image was taken. This is certainly a testament to the public's desire for contemporary news from the front. It featured a determined, and successful (if not yet victorious) American fighting force and the public was thirsty for news of success in the Pacific that would speed drawing the war to a close.

6. The image served as inspiration to US troops and aided the war effort.

The U.S. would later make use of some of the men credited with raising the flag to sell war bonds. This seems also to demonstrate not only the public's need for war news, but the war effort's need for effective propaganda.

Reportedly, President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself saw the potential of the photo in the efforts to help pay for the war. The bond drive, known as the Seventh War Loan Drive, raised more than $26 Billion, almost twice what was expected.

7. The surviving flag raisers became celebrities.

The surviving flag raisers, Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and (then supposed) John Bradley were assigned by the War department to help sell the war at home. They gained a measure of fame from the famous photo. They even appeared for cameos in the 1949 film, the Sands of Iowa Jima.

Unfortunately, tragedy followed one of them home. Ira Hayes, (pictured farthest to the left in Rosenthal's image) suffered from survivor's guilt and alcoholism. He died in 1955 at the age of 32 from alcohol poisoning and exposure. His story later became a 1951 film, The Outsider, in which Tony Curtis portrayed Hayes. His tragic life also inspired the eponymous folk song, The Ballad of Ira Hayes, which was written by Peter LaFarge and performed by Johnny Cash.

It is a further poignant irony that when Gagnon–the first to be shown an enlargement of the photo and asked to identify the others–reportedly refused to identify Hayes on the grounds that Hayes had warned him not to. Only when he was taken to Marine Corps headquarters and informed that President Roosevelt himself ordered the identities released did Gagnon identify Hayes. Perhaps if the fog of war had caused Bradley to be mistaken for Hayes instead of Shultz, Hayes's story would have had a happier ending.

8. Rosenthal was accused of staging the photo.

This arose from some confusion about a subsequent photo. After the second flag-raising, Rosenthall asked the marines to pose for a “gung ho” group photo. After he had returned to Guam several days later, he was asked if the photo was posed. Mistakenly believing that the person asking the question was referencing the “gung ho” photo, Rosenthal indicated that it had been. This led a Time-Life photographer to tell his editor that Rosenthal's famous flag-planting photo had been staged, a charge which Rosenthal was forced to refute repeatedly for decades.

Sergeant Bill Benaust, a Marine photographer, was shooting motion-picture film a few feet away when the Rosenthal photo was taken. This video shows the event as it unfolded and also serves to defeat any characterization that Rosenthal's famous image was staged.

9. The man who would later sculpt the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlighton, Virginia recognized the potential of the photo instantly.

Then Petty Officer Felix de Weldon was stationed at Patuxent Air Station in Maryland on Saturday, February 24, 1945–the day after Rosenthal's Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima was captured. The Captain on duty pulled the image off the wire and gave it to de Weldon to review. De Weldon was an immigrant from Austria and had studied painting and sculpture. He was mesmerized by its classic triangular lines, similar to sculptures he had studied. He took to his clay and tools and within 3 days had replicated the event. In 1951 de Weldon was commissioned to design a Marine Corps memorial. Hayes, Gagnon and Bradley posed for him, and he used their faces as models and based the deceased soldiers' faces on photographs.

10. Rosenthal almost missed the shot.

Having already missed the initial, smaller flag raising, Rosenthal placed his Speed Graphic on the ground, hoping to pile up some rocks to stand on for a better angle. The Marines (and the Navy Corpsman Gagnon) started raising the flag. Rosenthal quickly swung the camera up without using his viewfinder and snapped the photo. Years later, he wrote:

Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera and shot the scene. That is how the picture was taken, and when you take a picture like that, you don't come away saying you got a great shot. You don't know.

Rosenthal reported that his Speed Graphic was set to 1/400 sec., with an f-stop between 8 and 11.

War and the Image

It’s no coincidence that the most famous works of both Rosenthal and Matthew Brady appeared during times of war. War is always fraught with consequence–historical, personal, and emotional. So it always presents opportunity to capture images that overflow with consequence–with significance. Consider the famous LIFE magazine photo cover of the sailor kissing a woman at the close of WWII (or, in this case, my photo of a sculpture in San Diego made in the image's likeness):

What if this photo featured a man in a baseball uniform instead of sailor’s garb? Suddenly, it’s two people celebrating winning the World Series. It would still capture the embrace as a memorable, spontaneous and joyous event. But it would surely lack the gravitas of the end of war. Winning a baseball game—even a championship—only contrasts itself with the loss of a baseball game. War, being death, offers the contrast of life. In the same way, Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima depicted the struggle of war. Not just of a moment within war, but within one of the most an arduous, brutal battles of the twentieth century. A brief ray of light enveloped by darkness.

You never get away from the feeling of grabbing mother earth, and that first feeling of “What am I doing here?”

— Joe Rosenthal on Wartime Photography

Conclusions

Consider how quickly Rosenthal's image became widely known–and how deeply ingrained it remains. First, there was the reporter who helped perpetuate the myth that Rosenthal staged the image, who was discussing it with his editor only a few days after it was taken. Also, Petty Officer and sculptor de Wheldon saw the image in Maryland the day after it was taken. That speed would have been unknown to WWI images. Add to this the fact that in the months that followed, the image's popularity helped raise billions for the war effort. In short, Rosenthal's image went viral sixty years before going viral was a thing.

But it still wasn't out of steam. Rosenthal's hastened image became a sculpture to honor Marines. Then a postage stamp. Then the National Museum of the Marine Crops even used the image's shape as inspiration for its own design.


On August 20, 2006, at age 94, Rosenthal died of natural causes in his sleep at a center for assisted living in Novato, a suburb of San Francisco.

On September 15, 2006, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Public Service Medal by the United States Marine Corps.

The citation, signed by U.S. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter reads:


The 2006 Hollywood film titled Flags of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood which tells the life stories of the flag raisers, depicts Rosenthal's involvement in the events that led up to his taking the iconic flag raising photograph. Rosenthal was portrayed by actor Ned Eisenberg in the film.


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