It's time we honor the man who honored America.

Firsts & Facts about Joe and the Flag 

     Joseph John Rosenthal moved to San Francisco in 1932 and soon became a newspaper reporter and photographer. The Armed Forces rejected him due
to his poor eyesight, but during WWII, he served as a Merchant Marine warrant officer, photographing in the Atlantic and in North Africa.  He asked the Associated Press to
send him to "the action in the Pacific," and got his wish: flying on a Navy dive-bombing mission, sailing aboard many US Navy ships, making four amphibious landings and sharing courage under fire with soldiers and Marines.

      He took the historic photo atop Mt. Suribachi, February 23, 1945, during the fierce battle for Iwo Jima. Just days later, what Joe referred to as "the picture” ran on the front pages of nearly every Sunday newspaper in America. Its composition so perfect, readers assumed it was posed. (It was not, although the rumor still persists.)   Joe received a $500 bonus from the Associated Press for what would become the world's most famous photograph.

     Many people know the flag Joe photographed that day was the second American flag raised above the island. An earlier patrol raising a smaller flag was photographed by Marine Corps photographers. (Although it was first, photos of that historic event did not have the powerful composition captured in Joe's photo.) Orders came down to raise a larger flag, so it could be better seen from across the island. This was the flag raising Joe's shutter captured in a fraction of a second. That flag was seen by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, who said to Marine Corps General Holland Smith, "The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years." 

     The image of indomitable Americans lifted public  spirit in a war-weary America. The photo became the centerpiece of the Seventh War Bond Drive, raising $26 billion for the wartime Treasury (more than the total of the previous two bond drives). Along with the Eagle, Globe and Anchor, the flag raising photo is now synonymous with the United States Marine Corps.

      The prestigious Pulitzer Prize is awarded the year after the publication of a photograph. The Pulitzer committee made an exception for Joe and "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima," and awarded him the prize in 1945, the same year it was taken (a first).

      And while US Post Office regulations allowed “no living person on a postage stamp” (three of the flag-raisers survived the battle), Public and Congressional demand soon landed Joe’s photo on a  First Class stamp (a first), selling 137 million, a record number. A version of the stamp was reissued in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of the Iwo Jima battle.

      The Associated Press immediately recognized the significance of the photo and waved any fees for its use (a first), one reason why "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima"  has become the most reproduced and recognized photograph in history. 

      The Department of the Navy awarded Rosenthal the Distinguished Public             Service Award. He was also named an Honorary Marine, the honor Joe cherished above all others.

      After WWII, Joe joined the San Francisco Chronicle for 35 years until his retirement in 1981. He was a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the USMC Combat Correspondents Association, which later changed its name to the "Joe Rosenthal Chapter." He served as president of the San Francisco Press Club. He also earned numerous awards throughout his long photography career. Joe remained a patriotic American until his death in 2006. 

      After 72 years, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima still resonates with America’s strength and resolve. Its significance is not lost on the United States Marine Corps. When questions arose about accurately identifying the flag raisers, the Marine Corps Commandant ordered an official investigation to seek the truth and correct the history books, if necessary. A forensic study was done resulting in correctly identifying two men who had never been acknowledged for their roles.  Although the results were declared conclusive, the Marine Corps is continuing to study its most important photograph.

      I am certain you will take pleasure and pride in honoring Joe Rosenthal — a       
national hero and our San Francisco hero — by supporting our effort to name a US Navy warship in his honor. 

     Help now by signing the Petition!

Tom Graves, historian
Joe Rosenthal Chapter USMC Combat Correspondents Association