The First Flag on Iwo Jima

The iconic photograph of Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima remains an enduring symbol of American perseverance against overwhelming odds. Yet, as many know by know, the famous Rosenthal photo captured the second flag raising over the Japanese island.

Earlier that day, another group of Marines–who later went back to combat as Rosenthal snapped the iconic image–raised the initial flag atop Mount Suribachi. After a short fire fight, the 54-inch-by-28-inch flag was attached to a long piece of pipe found at the crest of the mountain. As this flag was too small to be seen from the beach below, and fearing that such a small flag would be taken away as a souvenir, a commender ordered the original be removed. Another marine went aboard landing ship tank 779 to obtain a larger American flag. Joe Rosenthal attached himself to the patrol carrying this flag up the slopes of Suribachi.

The above photo, capturing the first time a foreign flag had been planted on Japanese soil, was taken by Sgt. Lou Lowery, a photographer for Leatherneck magazine. Lowery was coming down with four Marines who raised the flag when he met Rosenthal and other photographers. He told them that the flag had already been raised on the summit, but that it was worth the climb anyway for the view.

Lowery was disappointed that his photographs were not processed and sent back to the United States first. However, Lowery and Rosenthal remained good friends until Lowery’s death in 1987. Joe Rosenthal attended the funeral.

F.D.R. Reviews Fleet off San Francisco



July 16, 1938. The abovemost photo was taken for Times Wide World Photos by Joe Rosenthal. In those days of radical image manipulation, the photograph was liberally retouched by airbrushing, cropping, and color contrasting. No less than three versions of the photo were used in the New York Times between 1938 and 1945, of which the most astoundingly altered was the one above.

The Red Flag over the Reichstag

Le drapeau de la victoire


Directly inspired by Joe Rosenthal’s photo of raising the flag on Iwo Jima, Stalin ordered the Ukrainian photographer Yevgeny Khaldei take a similar photo that would symbolize the Soviet victory over Germany. Khaldei hired his family friend, Israil Solomonovich Kishitser, to make three flags for him which he made from red tablecloths. Khaldei photographed the first flag being raised at the airport, and the second flag being raised at the Brandenburg gate.

However, Khaldei sadly found out that the Soviet soldiers had already succeeded in raising a flag over the Reichstag a few days earlier. Yet, he recruited a small group of soldiers and, on May 2, 1945, proceeded to recreate the scene. On close examination, the censors noticed that one of the soldiers had a wristwatch on each arm, indicating he had been looting. Khaldei not only removed the watches from the photo, but also darkened the smoke in the background (right) to make his picture more dramatic. The resulting picture(below) was published soon after in the magazine Ogonjok to achieved worldwide fame.