Joe Rosenthal's "Raising the flag on Iwo Jima" is perhaps the most significant photograph of all time. It not only boosted America's morale during WWII, it came to symbolize the US Marine Corps, and our nation's resolve to fight tyranny. While the photo is arguably the most recognized and reproduced in the world, the photographer who created it is in danger of being lost to history. A US Navy warship named for Joe Rosenthal will keep his name in public in a place of honor, and keep alive the history of American resolve, and the sacrifices of our Armed Forces to protect our Freedoms.
Secretary Raymond E. Mabus, Jr. United States Secretary of the Navy
Dear Secretary Mabus:
We respectfully request you, as Secretary of the Navy, to consider naming a US Navy warship for Joe Rosenthal, a patriotic American, and a man whose courage led him to
a place in our history.
Why Joe Rosenthal?
Joe’s Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima is arguably the most reproduced photograph in history. It earned Joe the Pulitzer Prize, ran on practically every front page in America and graced 137 million postage stamps. But neither these accomplishments, nor the photo’s powerful composition, alone define its greatness. “In that moment, Rosenthal’s camera recorded the soul of a nation,” one magazine wrote.
The sight of indomitable Marines in the Pacific gave Americans’ spirits a needed shot in the arm. The country was tired of war and the mounting casualties; and when victory in Europe seemed to be with reach, shocked by the dangerously slim success at the Battle of the Bulge. The photo atop Mt. Suribachi showed we could still fight and win, that our values still prevailed over fascism. The photo became the symbol of the Seventh War Bond Drive, raising $24 billion from ordinary citizens and financing the war effort.
Denied enlistment due to his poor eyesight, Joe joined the Merchant Marine as a warrant officer. He photographed in North Africa and on U-boat threatened convoys in the Atlantic. He requested the Associated Press assign him to the war in the Pacific, to “the action.” Once there, he sailed aboard numerous US Navy ships and made four amphibious landings, including Iwo Jima. Marines carried their rifles; Joe carried only his camera, exhibiting a different kind of courage. Several times his work alongside the Marines nearly cost him his life. In his later years he was proud to say, “I took the picture, but the Marines took Iwo Jima.”
Along with the Eagle, Globe and Anchor, the photograph became a symbol of the Marine Corps, earning Joe an award from the Navy, and the title Honorary Marine. The photo still represents the teamwork, courage and tenacity of American service members, and honors them and the nation whose flag they raised over adversity. After 71 years, it is time to honor photographer Joe Rosenthal, and in doing so, honor all who fought at home and on distant shores for peace and freedom.
The Joe Rosenthal will keep Joe’s name in the public eye, sharing his story and those of our veterans with new generations of Americans.
Photographer Joe Rosenthal was an extraordinary American whose courage, skill and tenacity put him in the right place at the right time. He deserves recognition with a United States Navy warship, the Joe Rosenthal.
Thank you Mr. Secretary.
Iwo Jima Veteran
President, San Francisco Bay Area (Joe Rosenthal) Chapter USMC Combat Correspondents Association