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This image is one of the most famous and widely published photographs of the 20th century. Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, took the picture of five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the flag on Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945 after the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history. Roughly 6,800 Americans died at Iwo Jima, most of them Marines. Despite the heavy losses, they did succeed in taking the island. Rosenthal heard that the Marines were going to raise the flag at the top of the mountain, and hurried up the hill, missing the first flag raising, but arriving in time to snap the second. When it was published in newspapers and magazines across the U.S. two days later, it almost immediately became an icon of American tenacity and perseverance, and won Rosenthal the Pulitzer Prize in photography for 1945. The image has been used as a postage stamp and has been reproduced in innumerable posters and billboards, and was rendered as a bronze statue for the Marine Corps War Memorial Arlington National Cemetery. It can be argued it has entered the national consciousness as an elemental patriotic symbol -- after the September 11th World Trade Center attack in 2002, a photographer on the scene captured firefighters posed in a similar manner and that picture also became emblematic of the event. Recently, reprints of the photograph have been made and signed by the artist, but this is a very early print from the negative signed in fountain pen by the artist during the period immediately after World War II.
Joe Rosenthal was an Associated Press photographer assigned to the Pacific theater during World War II. After the war he worked as a staff photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle, but remains best known for the photograph of the Iwo Jima flag raising.
The Best of LIFE. Literature Time-Life Books. p.24.
Landsberg, Mitchell. "Fifty Years Later, Iwo Jima Photographer Fights His Own Battle." Associated Press. February 1995. http://www.ap.org/pages/rosenthal.html (28 October 2002).
Mulligan, Therese & Wooters, David. Photography from 1839 to today. George Eastman House, Rochester, NY. Cologne: Taschen, 1999. p. 630.