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Joe Rosenthal

American photographer who received the Pulitzer Prize for his iconic World War II photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

/ Born / Joseph John Rosenthal October 9, 1911 Washington, D.C. / Died / August 20, 2006 (aged 94) Novato, California

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima is a historic photograph taken on February 23, 1945, by Joe Rosenthal. It depicts five United States Marines and a United States Navy corpsman raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

/ Early life / Joseph Rosenthal was born on October 9, 1911 in Washington, D.C. His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants; however, he converted to Catholicism during his youth. His interest in photography started as a hobby in San Francisco, California, during the Great Depression, where he lived with his brother while looking for work. He became a reporter-photographer for the San Francisco News in 1932. He graduated from the University of San Francisco.

/ Pulitzer prize / Rosenthal received the Pulitzer Prize in 1945 for the iconic photo. The committee noted that photo as “depicting one of the war’s great moments,” a “frozen flash of history.”

/ Later years / Rosenthal left the AP later in 1945 and became the chief photographer and manager of Times Wide World Photos. He then later joined the San Francisco Chronicle. He worked there as a photographer for 35 years, before retiring in 1981. On April 13, 1996, Rosenthal was named an honorary Marine by then Commandant of the Marine Corps General Charles C. Krulak.

/ Death / On August 20, 2006, at age 94, Rosenthal died of natural causes in his sleep at a center for assisted living in Novato, located in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, in northern Marin County.

/ 19 February-26 March 1945 / The Battle of Iwo Jima or Operation Detachment, took place between 19 February and 26 March 1945. The US forces had attacked the Iwo Jima island which was under control of the Imperial Japan. It was the first US attack on any of the Home Islands of Japan. Around 18,000 Japanese soldiers died in this battle as it proved to be almost like a hara kiri act. Japan’s defeat was certain since the beginning of the battle.

/ Mount Suribachi / Japanese soldiers had no way of retreating from the island nor could they get any reinforcement. On the other hand, the Americans were armed with naval and air power in addition to outnumbering Japanese soldiers on ground. Finally on 23 February, the Americans managed to raise the Stars and Stripes on the Mount Suribachi the dominant geographical feature on the island.

/ Click of this moment / Rosenthal’s click of this moment made a historic photograph. The American’s had already raised a flag. Later they went on to raise a second and larger flag; Rosenthal’s photograph captured the second flag raising. The six men who are seen raising the flag are: John Bradley, Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, Harlon Block, and Michael Strank. Of these the latter three died in the battle.

/ 5 feet and 5 inches / In order to take the picture Rosenthal piled stones and a sandbag so he had something on which to stand, as he was only 5 feet and 5 inches.

/ Mount Suribachi /

/ Speed Graphic /

/ Raising the first flag /

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Joe Rosenthal  

Joe Rosenthal and Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.