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Iwo Jima photographer died, aged 94.

// News about the fact that Iwo Jima photographer died.

Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist Joe Rosenthal, who took the iconic WWII image of soldiers raising the American flag over Iwo Jima, died Sunday (August 20, 2006) at the age of 94 in San Francisco of natural causes, according to his daughter.

Rosenthal captured for the Associated Press (AP) the black-and-white image of five battle-weary but triumphant Marines on Feb. 23, 1945, the fifth day of a 36-day battle for the strategic island of Iwo Jima 1,200 km south of Tokyo that left 6,800 U.S. servicemen and nearly 21,000 Japanese defenders dead. The scene captured by Rosenthal shows the second flag-raising on Mount Suribachi that day. The first flag had been considered too small.

The famous photo became the model for the Iwo Jima Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The memorial, dedicated in 1954 and known officially as the Marine Corps War Memorial, commemorates the Marines who died taking the Pacific island in World War II.

Ten years after the flag-raising, Rosenthal wrote that he almost didn't go up to the hill top when he learned a flag had already been raised. He decided to go there anyway, and found servicemen preparing to raise the second and larger flag.

Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen the men start the raise of the flag. I swung my camera and shot the scene. That is how the picture was taken, and when you take a picture like that, you don't come away saying you got a great shot. You don't know.

Millions of Americans saw this picture five or six days before I did, and when I first heard about it, I had no idea what picture was meant.

Rosenthal had recalled that days later, when a colleague congratulated him on the picture, he thought he meant another, posed shot he had taken later that day, of Marines waving and cheering at the base of the flag. He added that if he had posed the flag-raising picture, as some skeptics have suggested over the years, I would, of course, have ruined it by choosing fewer men and making sure their faces could be seen.


The AP photo quickly became the subject of posters, war-bond drives and a U.S. postage stamp.

Rosenthal was born in 1911 in Washington, D.C. He took up photography as a hobby. As the Depression got underway, Rosenthal moved to San Francisco, living with a brother until he found a job with the Newspaper Enterprise Association in 1930.

In 1932, Rosenthal joined the old San Francisco News as a combination reporter and photographer. After a short time with ACME Newspictures in San Francisco in 1936, Rosenthal became San Francisco bureau chief of The New York Times-Wide World Photos.

Rosenthal began working for the AP in San Francisco when the news cooperative bought Wide World Photos. After the Merchant Marine, he returned to the AP and was sent to cover battle areas in 1944. His first assignment was in New Guinea, and he also covered the invasion of Guam before making his famous photo on Iwo Jima.

Rosenthal left the AP later in 1945 to join the San Francisco Chronicle, where he worked as a photographer for 35 years before retiring.

August 22, 2006

USA Today

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