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The Flag Is Raised: Everything About The Iconic Flags In Iwo Jima


The wars are over, but their losses and imprints remain. “The Flag Is Raised” photo is among the expectations as a witness to history.

This photo was taken in 1945 in the context of the Pacific War. We will give more details about this event and the stories behind the photo. 

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What Is The “The Flag Is Raised” Event?  

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” is a famous photo of six marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi in Iwo Jima during the Pacific War. Here is some brief information about the photo:

  • Taken by: Joe Rosenthal (from the Associated Press)
  • Date: February 23rd, 1945
  • Place: Mount Suribachi, Japan 


To defeat Japan, the U.S. launched an attack on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945.

At first, Iwo Jima was not the target. However, because the Philippines surrendered so quickly, there was a lengthier than planned break before the Americans’ intended attack on Okinawa.

Iwo Jima is midway between the Mariana Islands and Japan, functioning as the station for American bombers.

When American bombers came, the Japanese used it as a warning system and radioed alerts to their country.

After taking the island, the Americans utilized Iwo Jima as an emergency landing pad for broken bombers and destroyed the Japanese warning system.

1. The battle was fierce

There were two flags raised on Mount Suribachi by two different groups of people on that day. The one taken by Rosenthal was the second one. 

The first flag

The Marines arrived at Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest point, after just five days of battling on Iwo Jima.

Destruction was there in the battle almost right away. Japan had one year to defend the island with reinforced bunkers, tunnels across the mountainside, and camouflaged artillery units.

Naval barrages and allied bombing couldn’t weaken the island’s barriers. They encountered the whole might of its Japanese soldiers as they arrived.

So, the Marines battling below and the soldiers offshore benefited greatly when the Marines climbed Suribachi and raised the first flag on February 23, 1945.

When the ships noticed the flag, they honked their horns. The Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen battling below broke out in cheers and gunfire. 

The Japanese forces started firing as well, seeing the flag on the island’s highest point as simply another target.

A barrage of gunshots erupted all around Marines on the mountain after that. 

2. Rosenthal was not there to see the first flag

The second flag

The first flag was still up when Rosenthal arrived at the top. He waited to watch what happened next, just like any professional photographer would. 

Fortunately, it didn’t take him very long for the moment. 

The Marine Corps ordered raising a second, larger flag over the battleground after witnessing how the American soldiers reacted to the first one. 

Rosenthal was there to watch the raising of the flag, but he nearly missed the next event as well.

Marine Sgt. William Genaust was filming the scene and asked Rosenthal if he was there. In returning to confront Genaust, the A.P. photographer noticed that the Marines were waving the flag.

He was unable to see through the lens to take the now-famous picture.

The second picture he took was a unit shot with 16 Marines and 2 Navy corpsmen standing around the hoisted flag.

You can learn more about this battle from this video:

3. This moment became iconic

Popularity Of The Photo 

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” helped Joe Rosenthal earn a notable prize and fame. During that time, people still spread this iconic image in the media. 


“Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” was the only photo to have the Pulitzer Prize for Photography the year after it first came out. 

Later, people used it in the 1954 Marine Corps War Memorial building.

They constructed it in memory of all Marines who had sacrificed their lives in the line of duty since 1775.


People have reproduced Rosenthal’s photo in multiple formats. You can find it on about 3.5 million banners and posters for the seventh military bond drive. 

The photo was also famous among unconventional media channels, like butter, ice, corn mazes, and Lego bricks. 

Film producers depicted the flag-raising scenes. The two most famous movies are “Sands of Iwo Jima” in 1949 and “The Outsider” in 1961.

The first movie’s director even invited the real flag raisers to appear as cameos in the final scene. 

4. The image now appears in many media channels  

Incorrect Identifications Of The Photo 

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt realized the photo’s potential for use in the approaching Seventh War Loan Drive to raise money for the military effort.

When the combat on the island ceased, the president then commanded to identify the flag-raisers and invite them to Washington (March 26, 1945).

Joe Rosenthal didn’t take the monikers of the people in his photo. Rene Gagnon arrived in Washington, D.C., on April 7 as the first of the second flag raisers. 

Gagnon identified himself, Franklin Sousley, Henry Hansen, John Bradley, and Michael Strank as being in the photo by resizing a copy of it that blurred the flag raisers’ faces.

He intended to use fake names first, but he changed his mind because such actions were illegal. 

Bradley and Hayes visited Washington, D.C., on April 19. Gagnon, Hayes, and Bradley, the three remaining second flag-raisers, met President Truman on April 20.


Iwo Jima is among the most famous wars in World War II. As a result, the photo taken from this historical moment became iconic too. 

Hopefully, we have given you everything you want to know. For any further information, please feel free to ask. Thank you for reading!

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