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    • Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

      On Thursday, the US commemorated the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima. This came 78 years after that defining moment in World War 2.

      Various United States Marine Corps Stations and numerous civic groups held ceremonies to honor the event.

      On Friday, February 23rd, 1945, six Marines of the 5th Marine Division reached the top of Mount Suribachi and planted the US flag at its summit. Later that afternoon, they replaced it with a larger flag that was visible across the Island.

      Associated Press combat photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the raising of the larger flag in his Pulitzer-prize-winning image, The Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima.

      Image credit: National Archives

      Four days earlier, the Marines’ V Amphibious Corps landed on the island, assaulting volcanic terrain overshadowed by the height of Suribachi to the south. Together with elements from the Army, Army Air Force, and Navy, Marines took the island five weeks later, on March 26th. But sporadic fighting would continue for almost two additional months and dug-in Japanese defenders harassed US forces, using caves and tunnels for cover and concealment.

      Three of the Marines in Rosenthal’s photograph would be killed in action on Iwo Jima: Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon Block, and Private First Class Franklin Sousley.

      The raising of the flag symbolized an important achievement in the war. With the Japanese Empire crumbling, Allied Forces were steadily island-hopping toward Japan. Iwo Jima, which housed a Japanese monitoring post and airstrip, was halfway between the Marianas Islands, home to the US 20th Army Air Force, and Japan.

      Iwo Jima would serve Americans as a support and emergency landing station for thousands of B-29s engaging in long, arduous bombing and observation missions over the Japanese islands.

      And Rosenthal’s photo would become one of the most recognizable images from World War 2. In the years following the war, the image would inspire the Marine Corps War Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery. The Memorial recognizes all Marines who have fought and died in combat since the founding of the Corps in 1775.

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