Joe Rosenthal, 94, War Photographer

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Joe Rosenthal, the Associated Press photographer who won a Pulitzer Prize for his iconic image of servicemen raising an American flag over battle-scarred Iwo Jima during World War II, died Sunday in Novato, Calif. He was 94.

It shows the second raising of the flag that day on Mount Suribachi on the Japanese island. The first flag had been deemed too small.

Rosenthal liked to call himself “a guy who was up in the big leagues for a cup of coffee at one time.”


On February 19, 1945, 30,000 Marines landed on the southeast coast of Iwo Jima, 750 miles southwest of Tokyo. Mount Suribachi, at 546 feet the highest point on the island, took four days for the troops to scale. In all, more than 6,800 U.S. servicemen died in the five-week battle for the island, and the 21,000-man Japanese force was virtually wiped out.

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

He denied later stories that he had posed the shot. “Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera and shot the scene.”


The AP photo quickly became the subject of posters, war-bond drives and a U.S. postage stamp. Later, it became the basis of the Iwo Jima Memorial, near Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

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

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