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6 Things to Know About Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

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Seventy-one years ago today, photographer Joe Rosenthal was in the right place at the right time. Just as five Marines and one Navy sailor hoisted an American flag at the summit of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, an island southeast of Japan, Rosenthal raised his Speed Graphic camera and snapped one of the most iconic pictures of all time. Here’s what you need to know about his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo.

1. THE PHOTO ACTUALLY CAPTURED THE SECOND FLAG-RAISING OF THE DAY.

Before Rosenthal took his picture, fellow photographer Sgt. Louis Lowery had been snapping pictures of the first flag raising for Leatherneck magazine.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Afterward, he decided to go back down the mountain to retrieve different equipment. On the way, he encountered Rosenthal climbing up. Lowery warned Rosenthal that he had missed the flag raising, but Rosenthal decided to go up and grab a few pictures anyway. When he got to the top, he discovered that the Marines had been ordered to replace the flag with a larger one—and that flag-raising is the one that was immortalized in Rosenthal’s picture.

2. SADLY, HALF OF THE SOLDIERS IN THE PICTURE WERE KILLED IN ACTION NOT LONG AFTER THE PHOTO WAS TAKEN.

Harlon Block, age 20, and Michael Strank, age 25, were both killed on March 1. Franklin Sousley, age 19, was shot on March 21. By the time Iwo Jima was secured, there were three surviving soldiers from the group: Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, and Navy hospital corpsman John Bradley.

3. DESPITE MANY ARGUMENTS TO THE CONTRARY, THE PHOTO WASN'T STAGED.

The controversy stems from a moment of confusion—you see, Rosenthal wasn’t entirely sure that he had captured the flag raising moment, so afterward, he asked the group of men to pose for a picture beneath the flying stars and stripes. He referred to this as the “Gung Ho” picture. When people saw the picture in the newspapers and congratulated him, Rosenthal assumed the papers had picked up the “Gung Ho” shot, and freely said that he had posed the soldiers for the photo. It wasn’t until later that he realized which photo had become a national sensation. He spent the rest of his life denying that he had staged the flag-raising shot.

4. A FELLOW JOURNALIST WAS SHOOTING FOOTAGE WHILE ROSENTHAL WAS TAKING PICTURES.

You can see some of his footage at the end of this video:

5. IT INSPIRED AMERICANS TO BUY WAR BONDS.

The photo was used in 3.5 million posters for the Seventh War Loan Drive, and the three surviving soldiers were sent on tour to encourage Americans to buy war bonds. It worked—thanks to the patriotism and emotion exuding from the photograph, war bond sales from the Seventh War Loan Drive totaled $26.3 billion, nearly double the original goal.

6. BOTH OF THE FLAGS WERE PRESERVED AND NOW LIVE AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE MARINE CORPS.

Both of the flags raised at the summit of Mount Suribachi eventually found their way home and are now displayed on a rotating basis at the Triangle, Virginia, museum. The museum calls them “perhaps the most important artifacts in the care of the National Museum of the Marine Corps.”

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By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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History
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran // CC NC SA
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Space
Mind-Bending New Images of Jupiter From Juno's Latest Flyby
NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran // CC NC SA
NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran // CC NC SA

NASA’s Juno spacecraft left Earth in August 2011, and has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, completing its eighth close flyby in late October. While flying beneath the dense cloud cover that obscures the solar system’s largest planet, it captured some incredible close-up views of the gas giant, as Newsweek reports.

With the JunoCam community, the public can alert NASA to points of interest and help direct the Juno mission. Citizen scientists have processed the raw, black-and-white images Juno beams back to Earth to highlight particular atmospheric features, collage multiple images, and enhance colors, releasing the edited color images before the space agency has a chance to. A whole new batch just emerged from the latest flyby, and they're well worth a look. Take a peek at a few below, and see more at the JunoCam website.

A swirl appears on Jupiter's surface.
NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Shawn Handran // Public Domain

A partial view of Jupiter
NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Shawn Handran // Public Domain

A close-up view of Jupiter's surface
NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran // CC NC SA

A view of Jupiter's surface
NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran // CC NC SA

[h/t Newsweek]

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