U.S. Marines in the photo (left to right): Pfc. Ira Hayes; Pfc. Franklin Sousley; U.S. Navy Pharmacist’s Mate 2d Class John Bradley; Sgt. Michael Strank; and Cpl. Harlon Block. Photo: Joe Rosenthal (1911-2006).
PEOPLE I HAVE MET--As a young Hearst reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, I shared office space with Joe Rosenthal, the legendary photographer of “that” shot of the flag being raised atop Mt. Suribachi, a 545-foot extinct volcano on Iwo Jima. He was 60 year old at the time and looked older.
Sixty-eight years ago, in 1/400th of a second in his 94 years, he captured what is considered the most widely reproduced photograph in U.S. history. For that he won a Pulitzer Prize and the admiration of countless generations. The image symbolized the first capturing of Japanese held land in the war. And, it wasn’t until a month later that the island was officially secure of combatants. Of the 21,000 Japanese troops defending the island 95% of them died.
That unposed image was taken atop that infamous mountain top along side three other photographers. Joe was with Associated Press during the war. Although, the photo was unposed, the flag-raising was a staged media event.
I was new at the self-described “Monarch of the Dailies” newspaper and I remember saying it was an honor to meet him. Looking back, of all the questions I could have posed, I asked what type of camera he used for what became the most famous photo of WWII (history’s words not his). He smiled and pointed to the calendar on the partition between the business and photo sections of the Examiner. “It was a Speed Graphic,” he said, “It was Feb. 23. I took the shot on a Friday. It was a gloomy day.” Checking the calendar on the day I spoke to him day was Feb. 22, 1972. I never spoke to him again as later that week I was moved to a new desk in the business section. I really missed out by not asking more questions.