Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima


Who: Five US Marines and one US Navy corpsman.

What: One of the most reproduced photographs in history.

Where: Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, 650 miles SW of Tokyo.

Why: Part of the Pacific theatre of World War Two.

When: February 23, 1945.

“When you take a picture like that, you don’t come away saying you got a great shot. You don’t know.’ – Joe Rosenthal

One of the most famous photographs of all time, the subject of countless books and films, the Marine Corps War Memorial and the only photograph to date to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in the same year as its publication, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima shows five US Marines, of whom three would not survive the next few weeks, and a Navy corpsman raising the second of two flags atop the conquered Mount Suribachi on the scabby island of Iwo Jima in the Pacific during World War Two. The six men were laying telephone wire after several days of intense battle before, at the behest of Colonel Chandler Johnson requesting a second, bigger flag to replace the first one that had been raised, they were instructed to hoist the second flag of the day. The men were diverse: the strapping Texan, Harlon Block, the riotous boy from Kentucky, Franklin Sousley, the ‘old man’ of 25 and Czech immigrant Mike Strank – all of whom died within a month – along with the French Canadian Rene Gagnon, the troubled Pima Indian Ira Hayes and the quiet, reflective Wisconsinite John Bradley – who became celebrities after the battle raising money for the war. The photograph instantly brought people hope in a time when the war had dragged on for too long and at too high a cost, and during the Seventh War Loan drive, the three survivors helped raised $26.3 billion to help with the war effort. Of the three survivors, Ira Hayes never overcame his depression and survivor’s guilt brought about by the war, and died an alcoholic at 32, Gagnon also became an alcoholic and died at the age of 54. Bradley, the longest-lived of the six young men, coped by shutting out his experiences, talking of the war with his wife of 47 years only once.

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

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