Joe Rosenthal
Credit: google images

Joe Rosenthal is well known for his famous photograph of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima during the Second World War.  But did you know there was actually a lot of controversy about whether or not the photo was real or staged?  This was because of a misunderstanding involving two pictures.

The Events That Shaped The Famous Photo

The date was February 23, 1945 when Mr. Rosenthal started his journey up Mount Surabachi, as he got to the halfway point; he met four Marines on their way down and was told that he had already missed the flag being raised earlier in the morning.  He was convinced by others that it was still worth the climb to go up and view the top of the mountain.  When he finally reached the top he asked the Marine Commander about missing the raising of the flag and was informed that it had been decided they would replace the current flag with a larger flag.  He tried to locate the soldiers that had raised the flag hoping to get a picture of them standing beside it.  Unable to find any of them he decided to get a photo of the second flag raising instead.

Raising The Flag
Credit: google images


Rosenthal Gets the Money Shot

Rosenthal placed himself up on a stack of rocks so that he could be in the perfect spot for taking the money shot; fortunately he almost missed it.  He turned around just in time to take a quick shot of the flag being raised.  According to the, Rosenthal actually said  “Out of the corner of my eye, as I had turned toward Genaust, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera, and shot the scene.” Realizing that the shot may not have been the best one, he also took a second photo.  The second photo showed the happy marines surrounding the flag and was titled “Gung-Ho.”  He went ahead and sent off his photos and moved on to the next assignment.  He didn’t find out until later that the quick shot he took had been the one accepted and used by TIME magazine.  Upon receiving a wire from the Associated Press congratulating him; he realized he had no idea which picture they were speaking of.  Someone asked him a few days afterwards if the photo had been staged.  Rosenthal figured they were talking about the second shot and told them it had been.

Fake Damage

TIME magazine reported on their radio station that the photograph was a fake; that it was staged for its appeal.  Once Rosenthal realized which picture it was, he and TIME magazine quickly recanted their statement, but the damage had already been done.   The story and the one millisecond shot haunted Mr. Rosenthal for the rest of his life.