Joseph Rosenthal’s iconic photograph, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, has been rousing American patriotism for over 70 years. It immortalized the figures of six fearless Marines as they hoisted the American flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Climbing to the top of Suribachi – a Japanese fortress deemed impenetrable – was no small task. Undaunted, First Lieutenant Harold G. Schrier volunteered. He led a 40-man patrol up the mountain, avoiding detection while the Japanese were distracted by Allied bombardment. When the Marines reached the summit and raised the flag, Rosenthal said he almost missed the shot while trying to find a better vantage point, “Out of the corner of my eye, I [saw] the men start the flag up. I swung my camera and shot the scene... and when you take a picture like that, you don’t [know] you got a great shot.” When troops below saw the flag flying, it boosted their morale and helped turn the tide of the battle.
Rosenthal’s perfectly timed photograph inspired the nation and is one of the most replicated images in U.S. history. It was even used on a war bond poster to increase sales. The six men, struggling against fierce winds to raise the American flag, reminded U.S. citizens what the Stars and Stripes represents: enduring strength, unyielding character, and the hope for a better tomorrow.