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Iwo Jima: The Defining Image   Leave a comment

On February 19, 1945, 30,000 US Marines landed on Iwo Jima.  They encountered fierce resistance from the Japanese forces, but the US took control of this strategically important island.

The fighting that took place during the 36-day assault would be immortalized in the words of Commander, Pacific Fleet/Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who said, “Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, Joe Rosenthal's historic photo depicts five United States Marines and one sailor raising an American flag over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.The image above is an Associated Press photograph that won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. It was taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945. Photo: Joe Rosenthal/Associated Press

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, Joe Rosenthal’s historic photo depicts five United States Marines and one sailor raising an American flag over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The image above is an Associated Press photograph that won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. It was taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945. Photo: Joe Rosenthal/Associated Press

From The Navy Department Library:

Two flag raisings

At 8 a.m., on Feb. 23, a patrol of 40 men from 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, led by 1st Lieutenant Harold G. Schrier, assembled at the base of Mount Suribachi. The platoon’s mission was to take the crater at Suribachi’s peak and raise the U.S. flag.

The platoon slowly climbed the steep trails to the summit, but encountered no enemy fire. As they reached the top, the patrol members took positions around the crater watching for pockets of enemy resistance as other members of the patrol looked for something on which to raise the flag.

At 10:20 a.m., the flag was hoisted on a steel pipe above the island. This symbol of victory sent a wave of strength to the battle-weary fighting men below, and struck a further mental blow against the island’s defenders.

Marine Corps photographer Sergeant Lou Lowery captured this first flag raising on film just as the enemy hurled a grenade in his direction. Dodging the grenade, Lowery hurled his body over the edge of the crater and tumbled 50 feet. His camera lens was shattered, but he and his film were safe.

Three hours later another patrol was dispatched to raise another, larger flag. The battle for Iwo Jima is encapsulated by this historic flag raising atop Suribachi, which was captured on film by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. His photo, seen around the world as a symbol of American values, would earn him many awards including the 1945 Pulitzer Prize.

Over the years, the flag raising has come to symbolize the spirit of the Corps to all Marines. On Nov. 19, 1954, a bronze monument of the flag raising, sculpted by Felix de Weldon and located near Arlington National Cemetery, was dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in defense of their country.

Rosenthal eventually left the AP and joined the San Francisco Chronicle as a photographer.  After his death in 2006, the Chronicle wrote that when he was asked about the photograph, he would reply, “I took the picture, the Marines took Iwo Jima.”

 

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