Joe Rosenthal - Rising the Flag
When the war with Japan began, not even the most skilled American strategist imagined that a small volcanic island, lost in the middle of the Pacific ocean would harbour a decisive battle in the history of this conflict. Iwo Jima, which means "sulphur island", is a small island with only 21 km2, whose south slope consists mostly of the mount Suribachi, which is 160m high.
The stakes were high on both sides, due to the strategic position of the island. With the occupation of Iwo Jima, the USA could use the island to launch air raids aimed at Japan and they would also put an end to the warnings the Japanese forces emitted every time bombers passed by the island towards the imperial territory.
But overtaking the island would not be easy and American soldiers were already expecting Japanese soldiers to put on a violent resistance. The black sand beaches were a natural resistance to the quick progression of the troops upon their landing and before they could secure mount Suribachi, they remained highly vulnerable to enemy attacks. The mount was of vital importance because of its location and elevation, which offered a strategic advantage for whoever was on its top: from its slopes you could release artillery fire in any direction.
The United States won the battle of Iwo Jima, but victory came at a high cost of human lives. On the American side, the number of deaths was of about 5 000 and casualties came to over 24 thousand men. On the Japanese side losses were even bigger: about 20 thousand Japanese men died, Americans didn't manage to take many prisoners: a little over a thousand Japanese soldiers were captured alive.
This war scene was the origin of one of the most famous pictures in history, captured by Joe Rosenthal on February 23rd, 1945. Actually, a flag had already been raised when American Marines finally reached mount Suribachi. However, a second, larger flag was raised later. The latter moment was the one to become immortalized by Rosenthal.
This photograph earned him the Pulitzer Prize and became the face of patriotism and determination of the American nation. The people in this picture were also immortalized, when their names became associated with it. They were Franklin Sousley, Harlon Block, Michael Strank (who didn't survive the battle), John Bradley, Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes.
This photograph was also used in the war memorial for American Marines, dedicated to every member of this force who died for the country since November 10th 1775.
US Marine Corp - Memorial
American military forces occupied Iwo Jima until 1968, when it was finally given back to Japan.