Marines Encase Flag From Rosenthal's Famous Photo

Oct 13, 2006

QUANTICO, VA – The second American flag to be raised atop Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima during World War II, the one seen in Joe Rosenthal’s iconic and Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the event, today was installed in the new National Museum of the Marine Corps in advance of the museum's upcoming dedication. And to the left of the flag display hangs an autographed copy of Rosenthal’s picture, an image that older Marine officers have said actually helped the Marine Corps to crystallize an image of themselves in the months following its publication.

Rosenthal, who died in August at the age of 94, just missed by a couple of months a widespread public revival of interest in his historic picture and the events surrounding the battle of Iwo Jima, an interest fueled not only by the dedication of the new National Museum of the Marine Corps but also by the upcoming release of the much-anticipated movie “Flags Of Our Fathers,” a Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg production directed by Eastwood. The film is based on James Bradley and Ron Powers’ book by the same title (Bantam Books, 2000). Bradley was the son of one of the soldiers who raised the Suribachi flag: John Bradley, a Navy corpsman who died in 1994 having never mentioned to his family that he was one of the six soldiers in Rosenthal’s famous photograph.

After his father’s death, Bradley pieced together the story of his dad’s role in the Suribachi flag raising as he researched and wrote about the lives of the other soldiers who took part in one of the most visual accounts of American history. Rosenthal’s photograph is mentioned many, many times in the book, but people who have seen an advance screening of the motion picture were surprised that the scene depicting the actual making of the famous photograph is only a very small part of Eastwood and Spielberg’s film.

Renewed interest in Rosenthal’s photograph actually started earlier this year with the May publication of Hal Buell’s new book, Uncommon Valor, Common Virtue (Berkley Hardcover, 2006), a full accounting of the month-long battle of Iwo Jima and Rosenthal’s ten days on the island. Buell, the former director of photography for the Associated Press, whose knowledge of the famous picture was second only to Rosenthal’s, had a 45-year interest in the picture as well as in the whole story of the Marines and their valiant effort, in the face of staggering casualties, to take Iwo Jima. After years of research and personal interviews with soldiers, officers, journalists, and historians, Buell wrote what has been called the most readable history of one of the war’s most pivotal battles.

Today in Quantico at the new National Museum of the Marine Corps, the Suribachi flag was encased behind an etched glass image of Rosenthal's famous AP photo that was shot on February 23, 1945. The flag will go on display for the public beginning November 13. The museum, its own building design inspired by the diamond and pyramid shape of the Rosenthal image of Marines raising the flag, has in its permanent collection both of the original American flags raised on Mount Suribachi and they will be displayed in rotation.

The new National Museum of the Marine Corps will be dedicated during ceremonies on November 10, a date selected to be in conjunction with both the Marine Corps' Birthday and Veterans' Day. The museum’s displays will include 1,000 artifacts including tanks, aircraft, small arms, uniforms and over 1,800 photographs, letters and illustrations. Immersion and interactive experiences will allow visitors to experience other Marine Corps historical moments, including traveling along the frozen TokTong pass in Korea amidst enemy troops, disembarking from a helicopter into a combat zone atop Hill 881 in Vietnam, and experiencing major events in American history through the eyes of Marines.

The National Museum of the Marine Corps (www.usmcmuseum.org) is located at 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway in Quantico, VA.