Tuesday, August 22, 2006

U.S. Marines raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945.

Joe Rosenthal, the Associated Press photographer whose dramatic picture of servicemen raising a giant, wind-whipped American flag atop Iwo Jima's Mt. Suribachi during World War II became an indelible image of courage and fortitude, has died. He was 94. Rosenthal, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945 for his photograph, died Sunday morning in Novato, California.

Photographed on Feb. 23, 1945, the image of five Marines and a Navy corpsman marked the Marines' costliest battle of the war. In the fierce fighting on the small island 750 miles south of Tokyo, 5,931 Marines died, a third of all Marines killed during World War II. (In all, more than 6,800 U.S. servicemen died on Iwo Jima.)

The photo's publication to widespread acclaim in newspapers across the United States helped instill pride and hope in Americans yearning for an end to the war. Within months, the flag-raising image had been engraved on a 3-cent stamp and emblazoned on 3.5 million posters and thousands of outdoor panels and car cards that helped sell more than $200 million in U.S. war bonds with the slogan, "Now … All Together."

Navy artist Felix de Weldon recognized its symbolism and used the picture as a model to cast a small wax statue, a version of which would later be used to build the bronze Marine memorial at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington.

Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites, writing in the Quarterly Journal of Speech in 2002, said the Rosenthal photo had "become the single most powerful image of democratic solidarity in our culture…. "It has set the standard for collective action: There they are, the 'greatest generation,' individuals working together, rising as one to unexpected obligation, and mutely, without question or hint of cynicism."

(From the obituary written by Claudia Luther)

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