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70 years ago on this date, U.S. flag was raised at Iwo Jima

It was 70 years ago on this date — Feb. 23, 1945 — when one of the most iconic war photos in history was taken, featuring five U.S. Marines and a Navy corpseman planting an American flag on Mount Suribachi in Iwo Jima.

The shot was captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal only a few days into the 22-day Battle of Iwo Jima that launched on Feb. 19, 1945. About 30,000 Marines landed on the island.

Rosenthal, who had been rejected from the Army because of poor eyesight, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the photo.


But the photo didn’t come without some controversy and accusations that the flag-raising was staged — mostly because of Rosenthal’s own misunderstanding.

When Rosenthal began receiving praise for the powerful image he took, he assumed it was for this photo, which was staged:

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 9.42.41 AM

That’s because Rosenthal had used his motion picture camera to capture the flag raising.

“Joe doesn’t know whether he’s got it, because of the way it happened, it happened so quickly,” said Hal Buell, former AP Photos general manager.

After the flag was raised, Rosenthal then gathered the Marines together and posed them under the flag for a ‘gung ho’ shot.

“When he gets to Guam, he’s getting slapped on the back, ‘What an incredible picture!’ ” Buell said. “He wasn’t sure he made the flag picture, but he was sure he made the ‘gung ho’ picture.”

So when people asked Rosenthal if he posed it, he said yes.

“Then he sees tear sheets that had been shipped to Guam, and there’s the flag picture,” Buell said. “He says ‘oh, I didn’t pose that picture.’ Damage done.”

CONTRIBUTING: Associated Press