It's a tiny island 760 miles south of Tokyo, a volcanic mound that stymied the Allies' march into Japan. The Americans required Iwo Jima as an aviation base, but the Japanese had fortified their position. On February 19, 1945, US forces landed, starting off a month of battle that cost the lives of 6,800 Americans and 21,000 Japanese.
The Marines secured Mount Suribachi on the sixth day of the fight. An American flag was soon hoisted, but a commander requested a larger one, ostensibly to motivate his soldiers and demoralize their opponents. As five Marines and a Navy corpsman prepared to raise the Stars and Stripes, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal carried his heavy Speed Graphic camera to the top.
Rosenthal took a step back to obtain a better frame—and nearly missed the shot. He subsequently wrote, "The sky was clouded," of what has become one of the most iconic pictures of the battle. “The wind just blew the flag out over the heads of the gathering, and the disturbed ground and broken stalks of shrubbery at their feet represented the volatility of war.” Rosenthal's shot was plastered on top pages across the United States two days later, and it was instantly accepted as a symbol of unity in the long-fought war.
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