You have seen this iconic war image on numerous occasions and is considered one of the most duplicated photos across many media platforms, and includes a US postage stamp. This photograph was taken by Associated Press photojournalist Joe Rosenthal on Mt. Suribachi, after US Marines took the Japanese island of Iwo Jima after days of battle on February 23, 1945. The image above is a hi-res download (186 KB jpg.) of the original which is currently being held in US Navy records. Looking closely you will notice it is a copy of the original, meaning it remains untouched, non-cropped, grainy and in black and white. Imperfections exist probably from the negative development and age of the negative.
I was watching a documentary on the Smithsonian Channel which highlighted U.S. Memorials created and located near our nations capital. One of the many discussed was the United States Marine Corps War Memorial located in Arlington,VA., which is a 3D sculpture based on Rosenthal’s photo titled Flag Raising on Iwo Jima. During the program I learned that he won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo and I realized I really did not know anything else about it, so I started digging online. I went to Google and found many links just by searching “Iwo Jima Flag.”
This was actually a picture of a 2nd flag raising, and staying true to American- go big or go home– style, the first flag was deemed to small. After Rosenthal missed the first raising he was traveling up the summit to shoot the flag and ruble when he stumbled upon the second flag raising. He quickly snapped the shot without knowing truly if he got the the image he was hoping for. According to an article by Thom Patterson of CNN, the negatives were sent to Guam for processing and by the time Rosenthal saw his published work in the Pacific region, five or six days later San Francisco had released it all over the US being seen by millions of Americans, which during those days it was considered to have “gone viral.” The photo represented the the momentous occasion of a win in the Pacific theatre during WWII and was used to spread morale and sold many, many war bonds.
I have only been to Arlington, VA. one time and regretfully I only viewed the the US Memorials from a car window at night. The most striking was the Iwo Jima Memorial and the following image is close to what I remember from my visit. The five Marines and one Navy sailor continue to give me goosebumps.