Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

From Academic Kids

Missing image
(Joe Rosenthal/Associated Press)

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima
(/)A photo colorized to show all six men -  (red),  (violet),  (green),  (Yellow),  (brown),  (teal)
(Joe Rosenthal/Associated Press)

A photo colorized to show all six men - Ira Hayes (red), Franklin Sousley (violet), John Bradley (green), Harlon Block (Yellow), Michael Strank (brown), Rene Gagnon (teal)

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

The famous picture actually captured the second flag-raising that day. Earlier, Marines had raised a flag there, but it was too small to be seen. That first flag raising was captured on film by Sergeant Louis R. Lowery.

The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, had decided the previous night that he wanted to go ashore and witness the final stage of the fight for the mountain. Now, under a stern commitment to take order from Howlin' Mad Smith, the secretary was churning ashore in the company of the blunt, earthy general. Their boat touched the beach just after the flag went up, and the mood among the high command turned jubilant. Gazing upward, at the red, white, and blue speck, Forrestal remarked to Smith: 'Holland, the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years'.
Forrestal was so taken with fervor of the moment that he decided he wanted the Suribachi flag as a souvenir. The news of this wish did not sit well with Chandler Johnson, whose temperament was every bit as fiery as Howlin Mad's. 'To hell with that!' the colonel spat when the message reached him. The flag belonged to the battalion, as far as Johnson was concerned. He decided to secure it as soon as possible, and dispatched his assistant operations officer, Lieutenant Ted Tuttle, to the beach to scare up a replacement flag. As an afterthought, Johnson called after Tuttle 'And make it a bigger one'". (James Bradley, 'Flags of Our Fathers', p.207)

That order made its way down the ranks until the five marines of Company E (2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division) got the order. Along with a Navy corpsman, they raised the US flag using an old water pipe for a flagpost. Of the six men pictured (Michael Strank, Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, John Bradley (the Navy corpsman), and Harlon Block) only three (Hayes, Gagnon, and Bradley) survived the battle.

The photo won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for best photo; the only photograph to win in the same year it was taken. In 1954, the image was memorialized as a large, bronze statue, the USMC War Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The story of the five marines (and one sailor) is told by Bradley's son James in Flags of Our Fathers.

The photograph itself is currently in the possession of Roy H. Williams, who bought it from the estate of John Faber. Faber, the official historian for the National Press Photographers Association, had received it from Rosenthal. The flag featured in the picture is now part of the collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.


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