Raising The Flag On Iwo Jima: The Truth Behind The Iconic World War II Photo

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal.

On February 23, 1945, one of the most iconic photos ever was taken. Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, which was snapped by Associated Press battlefield reporter Joe Rosenthal, is the only photo to date that has won with the Pulitzer Prize the same year it was taken. It depicts six Marines raising the U.S. flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima, which was a significant tactical victory for America during World War II and one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific Theater. While you've undoubtedly seen the picture before, few know the story behind it and the identities of these six brave soldiers.

You may hear, for example, that the photo was staged. While it's true that the famous image depicts not the first but the second raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi, that's because the general thought the first flag was too small to be seen from the rest of the island, so he sent a second team to replace it with a larger one. The photo's dynamic perfection led to skepticism, but the soldiers' testimonies and a corroborating video proved that yes, indeed, this was a candid shot. In fact, Rosenthal admitted he wasn't even paying much attention when he shot it. He didn't even bother looking through the lens when he snapped the picture.