The Most Iconic Photo Of World War II Is A Reminder Of How Deadly The Battle Of Iwo Jima Really Was

Joe Rosenthal Iwo Jima Flag Raising Pulitzer Photography
Former AP photographer Joe Rosenthal poses with his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo at AP’s New York headquarters in 2003. Chuck Zoeller/AP

“Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” — the black and white photo depicting five marines and a Navy corpsman planting a US flag after a bloody battle for the island — may be the Second World War’s most iconic photo.

Fifty years after its capture, the Associated Press wrote that it may be the world’s most widely reproduced.

A Twitter account dedicated to sharing historical photos recently shared the photograph along with the names and status of its subjects.

Though the image is one of triumph, it was taken just days into a battle that would last more than a month.

Half of the six soldiers depicted died — among 6,821 Americans — on the very same island they claimed as part of the US’ island-hopping strategy of claiming the Pacific theatre; Franklin Sousley, Michael Strank, and Harlon Block all left their lives in Iwo Jima.

The longest-lived was John Bradley, the only non-Marine, who died in 1994. The AP photographer behind the image, Joe Rosenthal, died in 2006. He’d been too nearsighted for military service, but had an eye for a photograph that would earn him a Pulitzer Prize the year it was taken.

It’s worth noting that the tweeted photo contains an error. For a time it was thought that the soldier on the far right was Henry Hanson (he, too, would die on Iwo Jima). The sixth man was in fact Harlon Block.