Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
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Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
Six Marines hoist a U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi during the invasion of Iwo Jima.
There are few photos in American history that are more famous than that of the six United States Marines hoisting the American flag on top of Mount Suribachi following the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Before we get into the photograph itself, some history about the battle itself needs to be learned, as more people are familiar with the image than what led up to the moment.
The Battle of Iwo Jima was certainly not a one-day conflict, as members of the Marines and the Imperial Japanese Army had battled on the island for five weeks in the spring of 1945. The battle was part of Operation Detachment, which set out to capture the island from Japan, as well as take over the air fields so that the Americans would have a massive advantage in logistics over the Japanese.
With Iwo Jima in tow, the United States would be able to have an island in which they could base their attacks on Japan’s larger and more populated islands, giving them the upper hand. It wouldn’t be easy to take the island, though, as the battle that ensued became one of the bloodiest battles during the long war.
More than 100,000 Marines made their way to Iwo Jima, while the Japanese had an estimated 20,000 troops. Despite the large numbers advantage, the Japanese put up a fight that lasted longer than expected. Before the battle took place, the American victory was assured by the military, and even if it took some time, they were proven right.
In the end, there were more than 6,800 killed on the American side, with almost all of the Japanese soldiers either being killed, missing or captured. Only around 3,000 would survive on their own, escaping the battlefield and going into hiding. With control of the Pacific islands, the Americans had one big moment that turned the tide against Japan, even a couple of months before D-Day in France gave the Allied Forces an advantage in Europe against Nazi Germany.
As for the photo itself, it was Joe Rosenthal that snapped the image that would make him famous. Rosenthal was 34 years old at the time, and lived to see 94 years old and millions of people admire his photography, especially this one particular photo that was simply called “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima”. On February 25, 1945, the photograph was included in almost every newspaper in the United States, and almost instantly won a Pulitzer Prize for its significance.
Some might believe that the photo was taken at the end of the war in a celebration of the Americans winning the battle. However, there were still several more weeks as the photograph was taken during the first few days of the battle. For that reason, it might come as a surprise that three of the six men pictured would end up being killed in battle. These men were Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon Block and Private First Class Franklin Sousley. The other three that survived the battle were Corporals Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and Harold Schultz.
Not only has most everyone in the United States seen Rosenthal’s photo and become familiar with its significance in photography; many have also seen it immortalized in the form of a sculpture. If you head to Arlington, Virginia, there is a memorial called the United States Marine Corps War Memorial that shows the six men raising the flag at Iwo Jima. The statue was unveiled on November 10, 1954 and still stands today at Arlington Ridge Park.
Another fact that people might not be familiar with is that there was a first flag raising that was photographed two days prior. 40 men went up Mount Suribachi to raise the American flag, but the flag was much smaller than the one that was shown in the iconic photo. Rosenthal had almost missed the flag being raised after the first one was photographed by Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery.
Associated Press photo editor Hal Buell said that “While the photographers (including Private First Class Bob Campbell and Sergeant William Genaust) were taking their positions to get the shot, Genaust – the motion photographer – asked Joe, ‘I’m not in your way, am I?’ Joe turned to look at Genaust, who suddenly saw the flag rising and said, ‘He, there she goes!’” and quickly snapped the image.
Rosenthal had to face allegations that his famous photo was staged, but he knows that what he did was a legitimately great moment in photography. “Had I posed that shot, I would, of course, have ruined it. I’d have picked fewer men…I would have also made them turn their heads so that they could be identified for Associated Press members throughout the country, and nothing like the existing picture would have resulted.”
“My stumbling on that picture was, in all respects, accidental,” he said. “I swung my camera around and held it until I could guess that this was the peak of the action and shot.” Rosenthal also wants people to remember the subject of the photo itself, and not the photographer. “That a photograph can serve to remind of us the contribution of those boys – that was what made it important, not who took it.”