An Immortal Picture Worth more Than Any Amount of Words

By: Zack Duvall

Today in 1945, during one of the most brutal and influential battles of one of the most bloody wars in human history, a picture that galvanized and inspired a nation was taken by unsuspecting journalist Joe Rosenthal.

In honor of the anniversary of this historic, and Pulitzer- prize winning picture, that captures 5 U.S. Marines and 1 Navy Corpsman raising our nation’s flag in spite of tremendous danger, here are 6 quick facts about a picture that, even to this day, inspires feelings of patriotism and pride in all Americans.

1. A Lesson in Chance 

The title of this fact will make more sense when I explain it.

The picture, that has since become immortalized, was actually the second raising of the American flag over the island that day. The first flag raising was captured by Marine Corps. reporter Louis Lowery.

Lowery, after taking pictures of the first flag being raised, headed down Mt. Suribachi where he encountered Rosenthal who he knew through covering the same U.S. Marine Corps. division. He told Rosenthal that the flag had already been raised by U.S. Marines and that he had missed the ceremony. Disheartened but not discouraged, Rosenthal continued to travel up the mountain, only to discover Marine Corps. leadership had ordered a bigger flag to be raised on the mountain’s summit. Rosenthal was just in time to fulfill his role in American History.

2. A Very Ominous and Sad Truth

Of the 5 U.S. marines and Navy sailor in the iconic Iwo Jima picture, 3 of them were later killed in the battle.

Harlon Block, 20 and Michael Strank, 25 were two of the Marines pictured raising the flag that faithful day, both men were killed on March 1st, about a week after the picture was taken.

Franklin Sousley was the third Marine from the picture killed during the battle for Iwo Jima, his death was recorded to have occurred March 21st. Just days before the battle’s end.

The other three members of the group, Marines Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes as well as Navy Corpsman John Bradley were the other men pictured, all of which survived the battle and war.

3. The Photo was Not Staged

Despite common arguments to the contrary, Joe Rosenthal insisted, up until his death, that the iconic photo, Americans have come to regard as a sacred part of military history, was not staged.

The belief that it was is the result of a misunderstanding, and the lack of today’s communication and information sharing systems. Rosenthal had taken two pictures that day that he sent in to be published by the newspaper he was working for. The picture of the flag being raised, and what he termed the “Gong Ho shot” (Pictured Below), which was a staged picture of Marines around the base of the flag after it was raised.

Rosenthal thought that this was the shot Americans, and his publishers, were referring to when asking him about the photo and was the photo he was referring to when he told editors and publishers he had the Marines stage for the picture.

Image result for gung ho picture iwo jima

4. Video Documentation of the Moment

Although the still picture is often the most regarded and shown photo journalism of the moment, another journalist captured the moment on video. We have linked the video below:

 

5. The Photo Helped To Double War Bond Sales

The iconic Iwo Jima photo was used in over 3.5 million posters in the effort to sell war bonds during the last years of the war.

Government officials also recalled the surviving 3 members of the photo from the front lines to be the spokesmen for the drive to inspire the American public to support the war effort through the purchase off war bonds.

The initiative went on to double goals set by bond industry officials and earned the American war effort over $26 billion dollars.

6. Forever Preserved in USMC History

Both the originally raised flag that Louis Lowery captured in photographs and the legendary flag captured in the picture by Joe Rosenthal are on display at the National Museum of Marine Corps History, in Virginia.

The flag pictured in photos taken by Rosenthal, is regarded as the single most important artifact within  the museum by many military and historical experts.      

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