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The Famous Iwo Jima Flag-Raising Photo Gave Many Americans a False Impression

Sunday marks the 75th anniversary of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima, a moment captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal during the battle on that island in the Pacific. It has been called the most-copied photograph ever, and you'll find few Americans who are not familiar with it- it even inspired the Marine Corps War Memorial. For many, it sums up the entirety of World War II. But in 1945, it was received a bit differently.  

Such flag-raising images routinely appeared in newspaper coverage of island battles such as Tarawa, Guam and Leyte. The newsreels that millions of American moviegoers watched each week also used footage of flag-raisings to punctuate their reports (for example, those depicting the U.S. capture of Peleliu and Kwajalein). The expectation of a triumphant flag planting was so well-ingrained by February 1945 that Dorman Smith’s syndicated editorial cartoon, appearing in newspapers across the country just a few days before Rosenthal’s photograph, depicted a pair of hands jamming an American flag into a rock labeled “Iwo Jima.”

This was a home front, in other words, that was quite used to images of flag-raisings. One might even say that the American people, rather than being shocked by Rosenthal’s image (as many writers have suggested), actually anticipated it.

Besides that, the actual photo was taken a couple of months before that battle was won! Read the story of the iconic photograph in its historical context at Time. -Thanks, Jim Kimble!

(Image credit: Joe Rosenthal/National Archives


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The only worthwhile note in this story is a portion of the verbiage in the paragraph starting with "Over the last 75 years. . ." As that's exactly what the photo (and monument) is about. While there are doses of truth throughout the rest, the whole article is "decontextualized" from the events of that time. And delete the word "maybe" from the last sentence in that paragraph.
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