Monday, August 21, 2006

Iwo Jima Photographer, Joe Rosenthal, Died

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Joe Rosenthal, died on Sunday, 20 August 2006 of natural causes. He was 94 years old. Rosenthal is the photographer who snapped probably the most famous Marine photograph of all time...the flag raising at Iwo Jima. On 23 Februrary 1945, four days after landing on the island, Marines raised a flag on top of Mt. Suribachi and another photographer took the picture. However, the flag was deemed too small and a second larger flag was raised later that day. Rosenthal captured that event as well and that second image is the one that immortalizes the Marines and the sacrifices they made on Iwo Jima.

The battle for Iwo Jima continued for about four and a half weeks after the flag was raised. The U.S. lost about 6,800 Marines, nearly 23% of the landing force, during that battle while they annihilated the 21,000 member Japanese force that occupied the island.

The famous picture by Rosenthal was taken by chance. It was not posed as some have asserted. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw them raising the second flag and he turned and quickly took the picture. He later took some posed pictures of Marines standing near the flag, but it was the spur of the moment photo that captured the heart of the nation. The picture was put onto posters, was used for fundraising for war bonds, and was made into a postage stamp. The photo was also used as the inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, D.C. It is also eerily similar to a photograph taken by Thomas Franklin on September 11, 2001 that shows three firefighters raising a flag amid the ruins of the World Trade Center.

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