August 22, 2006, - 8:54 am

Joe Rosenthal: Important American Photographer Remembered

In these times of fauxtography by newswire stringers and free-lancers, it’s important to remember a great American photographer who photographed the real thing.
Joe Rosenthal died Sunday at age 94. He never created poses with men in green helmets and fake dead bodies (a la pro-Hezbollah Reuters contractors in Lebanon). But this photographer with integrity and American pride took what is probably the greatest, most symbolic picture in modern American history: The raising of the flag by six U.S. servicemen at Iwo Jima, on February 23, 1945.
In the days when the Pulitzer Prize was not about America-hating, Rosenthal won the coveted award for his famous photo that depicted true American grit and sacrifice.

Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima: Joe Rosenthal’s Historic Photo

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Rosenthal was ironically rejected for U.S. military service because of poor eyesight, according to The New York Times. An AP profile of Rosenthal notes that the shot he took was of the second raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi, that day. The first flag was too small. The photo he ended up with is credited for inspiring the famous Thomas E. Franklin shot of firefighters raising an American flag above the 9/11 ruins.
Of his historic photo, Rosenthal once said:

What I see behind the photo is what it took to get up to those heights–the kind of devotion to their country that those young men had, and the sacrifices they made. I take some gratification in being a little part of what the U.S. stands for.

Actually, taking that photo was no “little” thing. It was the shot that, today, is still the emblem of the American spirit.
He also wrote:

To get that flag up there, America’s fighting men had to die on that island and on other islands and off the shores and in the air. What difference does it make who took the picture? I took it, but the Marines took Iwo Jima.

Unfortunately, as , Clint Eastwood is setting out to destroy the legend of Joe Rosenthal’s photo and the men in it, by depicting the Battle at Iwo Jima–America’s bloodiest battle with 6,800 U.S. soldiers killed–in two anti-American films. One will show Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view. The other will show the alleged horrible life and treatment of the six American soldiers who raised the flag.
We’re sad Joe Rosenthal passed away, and that there are no photographers like him, today. But we’re happy he won’t be around to see Dirty Harry’s dual attempts to savage the memory of his famous photo.
The old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words definitely applies to the lasting work of Joe Rosenthal. He may have died, but his pictures live on.
Read the whole AP profile of Joe Rosenthal. More on Rosenthal here.

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4 Responses

Hate to tell you Debbie, but the flag raising picture was a fake, restaged because of bad composition of the first picture and then cropped and re-cropped. Go HERE for the real deal.

Duke on August 22, 2006 at 3:34 pm

I guess I can’t post links here. Go to for the details on the flag raising.

Duke on August 22, 2006 at 3:36 pm

I heard that someone was going to do a movie of “Flags of Our Fathers” and I thought to myself: “…this ain’t gonna be no stinkin’ good!”
The audience and the author are always the loser in these Hollywood re-writes.

P. Aaron on August 22, 2006 at 4:58 pm

Hey Duke,
the original flag at IWO was taken down because a commander ordered a larger flag planted so “that every GI on the island could see it!”
If you read either “The Flags of Our Fathers” or any article featuring Joe Rosenthal, he states plainly that “…if it was posed shot, you’d be able to see their faces, because I would’ve posed them that way”. Rosenthal states: “I just shot the picture as the flag was going up, I didn’t even get set for it”.
That is where much of the confusion originates: The “posed” shot of the many Marines is the “posed for shot” because Rosenthal asked everybody to pose for that picture.
If you look at the 2 pictures at IWOJIMA.COM, the only difference is the cropping.

P. Aaron on August 22, 2006 at 5:10 pm

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