The most iconic photograph of World War II was captured 72 years ago on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945.
The photo, taken by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal, captured six Marines as they raised the American flag at the top of Mount Suribachi, just five days into the battle. Though it resonated with the public as depicting triumph and US military strength, the battle continued on for another month.
Three of the six flag-raisers were later killed in the battle: Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon Block, and Pfc. Franklin Sousley.
Though the image was reprinted across the world and inspired many, the photograph did spark controversy amid accusations that Rosenthal staged the flag-raising. It was indeed the second raising of a much-larger flag on Suribachi that day, but Rosenthal captured it as it happened, without any prompting, as a film of the flag raising showed.
Even more controversial was the official historical record of who actually raised the flag. The Marine Corps believed for many years that it was five Marines and a Navy corpsmen, John Bradley, who raised the flag. However, a review panel found in 2016 that Bradley was misidentified, and the sixth flag raiser was confirmed as Pfc. Harold Schultz.
“Although the Rosenthal image is iconic and significant, to Marines it’s not about the individuals and never has been,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said. “Simply stated, our fighting spirit is captured in that frame, and it remains a symbol of the tremendous accomplishments of our Corps — what they did together and what they represent remains most important. That doesn’t change.”
The official record notes the flag-raisers are: Cpl. Harlon Block, Pfc. Rene Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes, Pfc. Harold Schultz, Pfc. Franklin Sousley, and Sgt. Michael Strank.
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