US Marines raised American flag over Iwo Jima 75 years ago today

It has been called the most iconic war photo of all time.

On Feb. 23, 1945, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped a photo of six U.S. Marines raising an American flag over the battle-torn island of Iwo Jima.

On that date 75 years ago, the flag-raising at the highest peak of Mount Suribachi would have qualified as a viral photograph.

The photo was actually the second flag to be raised on the island that day, reported.

Marines from the 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment of the 5th Division took the peak, and the first flag-raising was recorded by Marine photographer Sgt. Louis Lowery, reported.

The sight of the flag set off whistles, gunfire and celebrations, CNN reported. It also attracted enemy fire from Japanese soldiers near the summit, and Lowery dove and fell 50 feet, smashing his camera, according to CNN.

Later, other Marines headed up to the crest of the peak with a larger flag, and that is the photo Rosenthal captured.

Hal Buell, the former executive photo editor of The Associated Press, told CNN that Rosenthal "did not pose that picture."

"The most surprising thing to me is ... that even today there are many people who believe that the picture was posed," Buell told CNN. "It still comes up over and over again."

Rosenthal, who died in 2006 at the age of 94, took three photographs atop the mountain peak, according to The first one showed five Marines and one Navy corpsman struggling to hoist the heavy flagpole; that became the photograph that won Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize.

The six men in the photograph were identified as Harlon Block, Harold Keller, Ira Hayes, Harold Schultz, Franklin Sousley and Michael Strank, according to

Rosenthal’s second photograph was similar to the first, but not as dramatic, while the third photo was a group shot of 18 Marines smiling and waving.

According to historian Robert E. Allen's 1999 book "The First Battalion of the 28th Marines on Iwo Jima," the flag shown in Rosenthal's photograph was delivered by Tank Landing Ship USS LST-779, and measured 56 inches by 96 inches, reported.

The photo has become an unofficial symbol of the Marine Corps. The Marines transformed the image into a memorial statue in Arlington, Virginia.

Buell said the photo was “exquisite.”

""You have this strong, diagonal line made by the flagstaff. You have the flag snapping in the breeze. You have the pyramid-like shape of the Marines pushing the flag up," Buell told CNN. "The men obviously are separate, but they appear as one. The blank background enhances the action by providing no distractions. Also, the photo is gifted with a softly filtered light. A very thin haze of clouds filters the light so that the shadows aren't harsh, but there is detail in all the shadows on the uniforms and the flag."

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