February 21, 2007
(Joe Rosenthal/The Associated Press)

(Joe Rosenthal/The Associated Press)

The Flag at Iwo Jima

One of the most celebrated images of World War II was actually a second take.

It was Feb. 23, 1945. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and several other photographers were on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima when U.S. Marines captured Mount Suribachi on the southern tip of the island.

A group of Marines raised the Stars and Stripes at Mount Suribachi's peak. But measuring only 28 inches by 54 inches, the flag was deemed too small to be seen all over the island and was ordered down. A second flag — this one measuring 4 feet 8 inches by 8 feet — was raised.

“I thought of trying to get a shot of the two flags, one coming down and the other going up,” Rosenthal said, "but although this turned out to be a picture [Marine Corps photographer] Bob Campbell got, I couldn't line it up. Then I decided to get just the one flag going up, and I backed off about 35 feet.”

That shot became one of the most iconic images of all time. Rosenthal died in 2006 at age 94. His Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph has been reproduced in many forms, including the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., and most recently was the subject of a critically acclaimed movie, “Flags of Our Fathers,” directed by Clint Eastwood.

Approximately 6,821 U.S. sailors and Marines died in the battle for Iwo Jima, including three of the five Marines in Rosenthal's photo. The sixth flag-raiser was a U.S. Navy corpsman.

The image, along with an interview of Rosenthal, will be featured in the Pulitzer Prize Photographs gallery when the Newseum opens soon.  The 2,700–square–foot gallery features the most comprehensive collection of photos that have won journalism's most prestigious honor.

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