Joe Rosenthal, Who Made Iconic Iwo Jima Photo, to be Honored at the National Museum of the Marines Corps

A bronze plaque honoring Joe Rosenthal, photographer of “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima,” will be dedicated at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway, Triangle, Virginia, on October 9, 2013, the 102nd anniversary of his birth. The ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m.

The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (also called the Joe Rosenthal Chapter) of the USMC Combat Correspondents Association is donating the plaque to the Museum’s Semper Fidelis Memorial Park. Rosenthal was a member of the chapter until his death in 2006.

Born in Washington, D.C., in 1911, Joe Rosenthal was a San Francisco newspaper photographer before joining the Associated Press to cover WWII, first aboard ship in the Atlantic and in London. Determined to be where the action was, he requested assignment to the Pacific, where he made four amphibious landings, including the one on Iwo Jima.

Although he made powerful photographs throughout the war and his career, his skill and fate found each other on Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945, when Rosenthal made the most published photo of all time, a symbol of both the Marine Corps and America’s power. The most important 1/400 second of his life, “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima,” earned him a Pulitzer Prize. Only three of the six men in the photo lived through the battle. The powerful photo, and public appearances by the surviving flag-raisers, combined to earn $26.3 billion in a 1945 War Bond drive.

The Iwo Jima photograph has been reproduced innumerable times, on everything from tie clips, statuettes and coffee mugs, a 3-cent U.S. stamp, and most grandly, the massive bronze Marine Corps War Memorial (often referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial), designed by Felix de Weldon, in Arlington National Cemetery. Even the silhouette of the 120,000-square-foot National Museum of the Marine Corps is starkly symbolic of Rosenthal’s photo.

After the war, Joe Rosenthal had a long career as a news photographer, mostly with the San Francisco Chronicle. An honorary Marine, he was at times uncomfortable with the notoriety associated with the famous photo, but made no secret of his love for the Marines he met and photographed during the war. Often, when praised about the flag raising photo, Rosenthal would say, “I took the picture, the Marines took Iwo Jima.”