In February 1945 Associated Press photographer Joseph Rosenthal snapped what became the most widely distributed photograph in America’s history, the raising of the our flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.
During the month long battle to take the 8 square mile island, 6,800 United States Marines gave their lives; 21,000 more were wounded. The sliver of land became a strategic airbase for U.S. fighters escorting heavy bombers on missions to Japan, and a haven for crippled aircraft that otherwise would have been lost to the unforgiving sea.
Joe Rosenthal’s photograph captures the valor and fierce determination of the United States Marine Corps. It is also one of the cherished cultural symbols of what Tom Brokaw calls “the greatest generation,” the men and women who worked America out of a depression, won a world war, and rebuilt the nations of its former enemies.
In Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley tells the story of the six men who raised the flag, one of whom was his father, and of the heroic battle to take the island. The late Stephen Ambrose described it as “the best battle book I ever read. These stories, from the time the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima enlisted, their training, and the landing and subsequent struggle, fill me with awe.”