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Profile of Joe Rosenthal



Born October 9, 1911 in Washington, DC
Died August 20, 2006 in Novato, CA

Rosenthal was a son of Russian immigrants in the Great Depression. After high school Rosenthal moved to San Francisco and managed to secure a job with the Newspaper Enterprise Association. A few years later he got work as a photographer and reporter for the San Francisco News. By the time the United States entered WWII, Rosenthal had moved to New York Times-Wide World Photos as chief photographer. It was during WWII that Rosenthal secured his place in photographic history with his image of the flag raising over Iwo Jima.

Main Photographic Subject:

War photography was Rosenthal's main subject. Although he tried to enlist with both the Army and Navy, he was denied service due his nearsightedness. Determined to serve his country, Rosenthal joined the U.S. Maritime Service and photographed convoys in the Atlantic. After a year in the Maritime Service, Rosenthal returned to the Associated Press (who had purchased New York Times-World Wide Photos). The AP sent Rosenthal to cover battles and their aftermaths in the Pacific area. Some of the locations he photographed were Guam, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima.

Major Contributions/Best Known For:

Rosenthal is best known for his photograph of the flag raising at Iwo Jima. The flag raising over Iwo Jima was captured on February 23, 1945 and depicts 4 marines lifting a large flag onto a shell-strown hilltop. The original image was in horizontal format but was later cropped, presumably by the AP into a tighter vertical composition. In order to capture the image, Rosenthal had to stand on a sandbag left behind by the Japanese because he was too short to get a good angle for the image from his viewpoint. The flag raising was actually the second flag raised over Iwo Jima when a commander decided to use a larger flag.


1945 Pulitzer Prize for Photography for the photograph "Flag Raising over Iwo Jima"


As the photograph of the flag raising over Iwo Jima circulated more widely and became an iconic symbol with the public of the sacrifices and bravery of the United States Armed Forces, a few people began to wonder if the photograph was staged. The accusation was one that would haunt Rosenthal until his death in spite of evidence proving it was not staged by Rosenthal.

Details of the Iwo Jima Flag Raising photo controversy


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