Dresden Destroyed

Behind the camera: Richard Peter
Where: Dresden, Germany
Photo Summary: A statue on the City Hall Rathausturm or Tower overlooks a destroyed Dresden
Picture Taken: 1945
This image has some limited copyright rights reserved after it was released by the Deutsche Fotothek of the Saxon State Library / State and University Library Dresden (SLUB).

The logic behind the Allied bombing campaigns was that air attacks would force Nazi Germany out of the war. Working to this goal much of occupied Nazi Europe was laid waste by bombers manned by Allied airmen. One of the most controversial bombing raids was the Bombing of Dresden, Germany in World War II. Between February 13 – 15, 1945 over 1200 Allied bombers dropped their deadly payloads on one of Germany’s biggest cities. After the last bomber flew away the city was left in almost total ruins. It took years to rebuild and in 1945 photographer Richard Peter took this famous picture after scaling the city hall.

On the left Dresden in 1945 by Richard Peter and on the right Dresden in 2005 by Matthias Rietschel (AP)

On the left Dresden in 1945 by Richard Peter and on the right Dresden in 2005 by Matthias Rietschel (AP)

The Statue

The statue in the foreground overlooking the ruins of Dresden is often reported to be Peter Poeppelman’s “Allegory of Goodness” or “Allegorie der Güte” but the statue was actually carved by August Streimueller.

The Bombing Raid

The infamous Bombing of Dresden is still one of the most controversial actions of the Allies during WWII. Between February 13 and 15 1945 around 1,250 heavy bombers of the British and American air-forces dropping huge amounts of explosive and incendiary devices on the mostly wooden city. The resulting firestorm killed around 25,000 people and destroyed most of the historic city center. This happened even though Dresden was of questionable military value.

Richard Peter

Dresden 1945 and Now

Dresden 1945 and Now


Richard Peter was born in Silesia in 1895. While working as a smith and miner he was drafted into the army to serve in the trenches during WW1. After the war, he settled in Dresden and became a photojournalist for various left-wing publications. When the Nazis came to power he was blacklisted and used his skills with the camera to work in advertising before he was drafted into the German Army during WWII.

After the war he returned to Dresden to find the city totally destroyed including all his photo equipment. Using borrowed equipment he began to document Dresden’s literal rise from the ashes. Publishing his work in a book Dresden, eine kamera klagt an (Dresden, a photographic accusation).

Even with his pre-Nazi left-wing credentials, his life under the communist regime wasn’t much better. After investigating corrupt communist officials he was banned from government work but continued to make a living as a freelance photographer. He died on October 3, 1977, at the age of 82.

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MacArthur and the Emperor

Behind the camera: MacArthur’s official photographer Gaetano Faillace
Where: MacArthur’s personal residence in the US Embassy in Tokyo
Photo Summary: Emperor Hirohito and General MacArthur meeting for the first time
Picture Taken: September 27, 1945
This image is in the public domain because it was taken by a federal employee, Gaetano Faillace

After the Japanese surrender in 1945, the American’s took on the task of occupying Japan and reforming the militaristic nation into a modern country that would never again threaten its neighbors. To minimize the number of American soldiers needed to keep the country under control the occupation command, known as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) or GHQ (General Headquarters), maintained the Emperor in his position of head of the state and as a rallying point for the Japanese people. Under pressure from other Allied nations, the American public (Immediately after war 70% of Americans wanted him killed), and elements inside Japan itself for destruction of the Japanese God-Emperor the SCAP had this picture published to show that Emperor Hirohito was supported by MacArthur and the occupation forces.

Taking the picture

In 1945 a meeting was arranged for MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito to meet and to discuss how to save his throne. Arriving at 10:00 on September 27, 1945, in his Rolls Royce the Emperor and his entourage of Imperial guards and advisers, were greeted by American SCAP officials Faubion Bowers and Bonner Fellers. The Americans saluted the Emperor and he first bowed to them and then shook their hands. Bowers then took the Emperor’s top hat which seemed to alarm Hirohito who as the God Emperor of the Japanese people was not used to be people taking things from him. As the American officer was taking the hat MacArthur burst into the room:

in that stentorian voice of burnished gold that thrilled everyone who heard it, ‘You are very, very welcome, sir!'” It was the first time Bowers had ever heard the general say ‘sir’ to anyone. The supreme commander reached out to clasp the Emperor’s hand, and the emperor simultaneously bowed so deeply that the handshake ended up taking place above his head. — Embracing Defeat by John Dower

MacArthur then took Hirohito into a private room with just the Imperial translator, Okumura Katsuzo. The Supreme Commander and the Emperor, through his translator, spent 40min together and swore to keep the contents of their conversation secret. Though over the years some details leaked out. According to the Americans, Emperor Hirohito offered to take responsibility for the war which MacArthur brushed aside. This is contrasted by the Japanese. Thirty years after the meeting the Imperial translator, Okumura Katsuzo, released his memoirs which claimed that MacArthur was “a fawning courtier awed by his proximity to ‘Your Majesty’ and extraordinarily solicitous in his comments.”
In all three photos were taken. In one Supreme commander’s eyes were closed and the Emperor’s mouth gaping open, Hirohito’s gaping open also ruined the second. The third is the one that was published.

The response

When the image was published on September 29, 1945, it caused a sensation in Japan. At a glance those who saw the picture understand who was the real Emperor in post-war Japan. MacArthur in his almost causal dress without medals towering over Hirohito who stood stiffly in a formal suit looking uncomfortable at the whole situation. The Image set-up was, the media adapt, MacArthur’s idea.

When the papers hit the street the Japanese censors at the Home Ministry, which this close to the surrender were still controlling the Japanese presses, became outraged and tried to have the picture censored. SCAP was then able to win two victories first by publishing an image showing who was really in charge and second overruling the Japanese censors there-by introducing Japanese to the concept of freedom of the press.
Many Japanese remember seeing the image and it finally sinking in that they were the conquered and that the Americans and their General MacArthur were in charge.
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General MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur was a career military man who lived from January 26, 1880, to April 5, 1964. Coming from a long line of military men he was valedictorian when he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He took the rank of First Captain when he graduated top of the class of 1903. Rising through the ranks he was brigadier general during World War I when he led American troops on the Western Front.
After the war, he was involved in many civil disturbances in America and in the Philippines. In 1937 he retired from the military and become Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines. When war broke out he had already been called back into service and he was General when the Americans lost the Philippines after a series of shocking victories by the Japanese Imperial army. He was forced to abandon his troops and flee to Australia where he would rebuild an American Pacific Army and after years of hard fighting force Japan out of the war. He oversaw the occupation of Japan with the official title of Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) which was also the name of his department that oversaw the everyday details of the occupation.

When war broke out in Korea he was again leading Allied armies this time against the Communists. During the Korean War, he frequently came into conflict with President Truman and on April 10, 1951, an order was signed relieving him of command. When he returned to America is was his first visit to the continental United States since 1937. His boy Arthur IV, now aged 13, had actually never been to the United States.
He worked in the private sector and his advice was sought after by many a president. On April 5, 1964, he died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center of biliary cirrhosis. He was granted a State Funeral by President Johnson and that he be buried “with all the honor a grateful nation can bestow on a departed hero.”

Emperor Hirohito

Emperor Hirohito lived from April 29, 1901, to January 7, 1989, and was the 124th emperor of Japan. When he took power Japan was an Imperial military superpower with the ninth largest economy, the third-biggest Navy and one of the five permanent members of the council of the League of Nations. During his reign, he oversaw and approved of an aggressive military takeover of most of Asia which eventually lead to Japan attacking America starting its entry into World War II. After the war, the occupying force, including MacArthur did everything in its power to shield the Emperor from prosecution of war crimes often by laying the blame on his advisers a role they were only too happy to take as they had pledged their lives to protect the Japanese throne. After the war and after the American had left Hirohito focused on official duties such as welcoming head of states to Japan and his hobby marine biology. He published many scientific papers and contributed the description of several dozen species of Hydrozoa that were new to science.

Gaetano Faillace

From 1943 to 1945 during some of the toughest fighting in the Pacific Faillace was General MacArthur’s photographer. During the occupation, he followed the General in his official duties. During the War, he took some of the most famous images of the General including his return to the Philippines and at the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. His photograph of MacArthur looking out at Corregidor Island, of the Philippines, was on the cover of the general’s memoirs, Reminiscences. On December 31, 1991, he died of cancer in Fayetteville, N.C. He was 87.

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VJday Times Square Kiss

Behind the camera: Alfred Eisenstaedt although Lt Victor Jorgensen took a similar image
Where: Times Square, New York City, USA
Photo Summary: Many claims to be the Nurse and Sailor shown in the picture. Former nurses Edith Cullen Shain and Greta Friedman are the most likely Nurses and George Mendonça and Carl Muscarello are the most likely Sailors.
Picture Taken: August 14, 1945. Victory in Japan day is actually Aug 15, 1945 but news broke out at Times Square on August 14 because of the International date-line and time zone changes.

America had been at war for almost 4 years, Germany had finally been knocked out of the conflict three months earlier but Japan still fought on. Finally after nightly bombing raids and two cities wiped out by Atomic explosions, Imperial Japan surrendered. News traveled like wild fire and on August 14, 1945 America celebrated! One of the most famous pictures of World War II, Alfred Eisenstaedt captured this image in the revelry at New York’s Time Square.

Taking the picture

Actual photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt

When news broke out of Japan’s surrender Alfred Eisenstaedt ran to Times Square taking pictures as he went. Suddenly he saw a sailor who was “‘running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn’t make any difference. None of the pictures that were possible pleased me. Then, suddenly in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse … Although I am 92, my brain is 30 years old.’ To prove it he recalled that to shoot that victory kiss he used 1/125 second exposure, aperture between 5.6 and 8 on Kodak Super Double X film.” Eisenstaedt snapped four shots of the kissing couple before moving on to get other pictures. A navy photographer, Lt Victor Jorgensen, was standing very close to Eisenstaedt and took a similar image. As Jorgensen was a federal employee his images are in the public domain while Eisenstaedt’s are copyrighted.

Who is in the Picture?

Original letter to Eisenstaedt

On that crazy August day, Alfred Eisenstaedt got so caught up in the excitement that was going on in Times Square that he didn’t write down who the sailor and nurse were. Since that day many have stepped forward claiming to be the two in the picture.

Edith Cullen Shain

Edith Cullen Shain was a Nurse that was taking part in the celebration when she was kissed by a sailor. She said she wasn’t surprised as “at that time in my life everyone was kissing me.” Even though she knew it was herself in the image she didn’t step forward until the late 70s when she saw an article in the LA Times with Eisenstaedt. He was talking about the photo and after reading it she decided to come forward. In the 40s Edith ” didn’t think it was dignified [to be photographed kissing] but times have changed” so she wrote this letter to Eisenstaedt:

Dear Mr, Eisenstaedt:
Now that I’m 60 – it’s fun to admit that I’m the nurse in your famous shot “of the amorous sailor celebrating V.E. Day by kissing a nurse on New York’s Broadway.”
The article in the Los Angles Times, which described your talents, stimiulated the recall of the scene on Broadway. I had left Doctors’ Hospitial and wanted to be part of the celebration but the amorous sailor and a subsequent soldier motivated [me] into the next opening of the subway.
I wish I could have stored that jubulation and amour for use P.R.N. [“P.R.N.” is a medical term meaning “as needed”]
Mr Eisenstaedt, is it possible for me to obtain a print of that picture? I would be most apprecitive. I regret not having meet you on your last trip to Beverly Hills.
Perhaps next time. If not – will understand because “it’s not only hard to catch him … its hard to keep up with him”
Have fun, Fondly,
Edith Shain

New York City celebrating the surrender of Japan. They threw anything and kissed anybody in Times Square.

Lt. Victor Jorgensen’s version of the photo

Of all the nurses claiming to be “the one” Eisenstaedt has backed Shain describing her as a “vivacious, lovely woman.”. Shain died at her home on June 20, 2010. She was 91 years old.

Greta Friedman

Greta Friedman claims the photo is of her but concedes that Shain was probably there, “There’s no doubt that Mrs. Shain was there and got kissed … because every female was grabbed and kissed by men in uniform.” But, says Greta of Frederick, Md., “it definitely is my shape. I used a comb in my hair. I had a purse like the one in the nurse’s hand. I remember being kissed by a sailor, right on Broadway.” Of the women, only Greta is high enough to be the Nurse to Mendonsa’s sailor. She died in 2016 at the age of 92.

Barbara Sokol

In the kissing frenzy in Times Square, Barbara Sokol recalls, she got “an ucky, sloppy kiss” and was wiping her mouth with a handkerchief when up walked another guy who yelled, “‘Gotcha’ I said, ‘No! No! No!’ and when he bent me back I thought, ‘My God, I’m gonna fall'” Barbara a nurse in Derby, Conn. She has always claimed that the Nurse was her and has kept a cut out of the picture framed, “my one claim to fame.”

George Mendonsa

Rita Mendonsa future wife of George Mendonsa behind the kissing couple

George Mendonsa or George Mendonça, a native of Newport, Rhode Island, was named by the Naval War College in August 2005 as the Sailor in the picture due some compelling evidence including picture analysis by the Mitsubishi Electric Research Lab (MERL) in Cambridge, MA, matching scars and tattoo spotted by photo experts and the testimony of one Richard M Benson a photo analysis expert and professor of photographic studies plus the former Dean of the School of Arts at Yale University. Mr. Benson has stated that “It is therefore my opinion, based upon a reasonable degree of certainty, that George Mendonsa is the sailor in Mr. Eisenstaedt’s famous photograph.” George, on leave from the USS THE SULLIVANS (DD-537), was watching a movie with his date, future wife Rita Mendonsa, at Radio City Music Hall when the doors opened and people started screaming the war was over. George and Rita took part in the partying on the street but when they couldn’t get into the packed bars decided to walk down the street. It then that George saw a nurse walk by and took her into his arms and kissed her, “I had quite a few drinks that day and I considered her one of the troops–she was a nurse.” In one of the four pictures that Eisenstaedt took you can actually see Rita in the background.

Mr. Mendonsa’s daughter, Sharon Molleur, reported that her father suffered a seizure and died on Sunday, February 17, 2019, after a fall at a care home in Middletown, Rhode Island. He was 95 years old.

Alfred Eisenstadt: Sailor Kiss, VJ Day, 1945

With Color

Other Sailors

Bill Swicegood, Clarence “Bud” Harding, Wallace C. Fowler and others have claimed to be the sailor but none have the evidence that supports Mendonsa’s claim. Even with all the evidence supporting Mendonsa as the sailor ex-NYPD officer, Carl Muscarello still insists that he is the kisser, “I am 100 percent sure. There is no doubt in my mind.” While Muscarello doesn’t have scientific proof behind the claim he does have the backing of the Edith Shain who the photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt, backed before he passed away. Another supporter of Muscarello was his mother, “When the magazine came out, my mother called me and said I was in LIFE magazine. You couldn’t see my face, but she knew the birthmark on the back of my right hand. She said, ‘Don’t you know you shouldn’t be kissing strange women? You’ll get a disease.’ I said, ‘Mom, the lady’s a nurse.’ She said, ‘They’re the worst kind, always around sick people.’ “. Muscarello who lives down in Florida was recently in the news when he and his son tackled a golf club-wielding home invader who surprised the family while eating breakfast.

As of 1995 LIFE magazine has never identified who was in the picture.

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Alfred Eisenstaedt (December 6, 1898, Dirschau, West Prussia (now Tczew, Poland) – August 24, 1995, Jackson Heights, Queens, New York) was a photographer and photojournalist, best remembered for his photograph capturing the celebration of V-J Day. Eisenstaedt immigrated to the United States in 1935, where he lived the rest of his life. Eisenstaedt worked as a photographer for Life magazine from 1936 to 1972. His photos of news events and celebrities, such as Sophia Loren and Ernest Hemingway, were featured on more than 90 Life covers.

#MeToo

The advent of the #MeToo movement caused society to reevaluate this iconic kiss. After the “Kisser” Mendonsa died a statue of the kiss was vandalized, with someone spraying #MeToo on the nurse’s leg. Several of nurses recall being kissed against their will that day but write it off as being caught up in the moment. BBC reported that “After Ms Zimmer’s death in 2016, her son told the New York Times his mother did not view the kiss negatively.”

More Images of World War II

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Fat Man explodes

Behind the camera: A crew member of one of the two B-29 Superfortresses used in the attack.
National Archives image (208-N-43888)
Where: Nagasaki, Japan
Photo Summary: Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945
Picture Taken: August 9, 1945
This image is in the public domain because it was taken by a military photographer

In an effort to end the war, and three days after the Hiroshima atomic bombing, the Americans dropped a nuclear bomb (Equal to the force of 21 kilotons of TNT) on the city of Nagasaki, Japan. The United States Army Air Forces B-29 bomber that dropped the bomb was called the Bockscar (sometimes called Bock’s Car or Bocks Car). The plane was piloted by Maj Charles W. Sweeney and co-pilot Capt Charles Donald Albury. Fat Man Detonated at about 1,800 feet (550 m) the explosion flattened the city and killed outright around 39,000 people, with a further 25,000 injured. Thousands more would soon die from their wounds.

Bombing mission


Enlisted flight crew of the Bock's Car.

Crew C-15. front row: Dehart, Kuharek, Buckley, Gallagher, Spitzer; back row: Olivi, Beahan, Sweeney, Van Pelt, Albury

The mission procedure for August 9, 1945, nuclear bombing run involved 5 B-29s bombers. Two were equipped as weather reconnaissance planes and would fly an hour ahead of the one designated bomber and two support bombers who would be providing instrumentation and photographic support for the mission. The primary target for the second nuclear attack (The first was the Hiroshima bombing on August 6, 1945) was the city of Kokura. The port city of Nagasaki was the secondary target. At the designated time the two weather bombers flew over the cities and determined that both targets were clear.

After getting the all-clear by the weather planes the designated bomber, Bockscar, and its support plane The Great Artiste met at the designated rally point. However the third support plane Big Stink failed to show. After waiting 40 min the two bombers continued to the primary target, Kokura. The drop on Kokura was cancelled as the city was covered by cloud and smoke from an earlier firebombing attack. The planes moved onto the secondary target, Nagasaki only to find that it too had been covered in clouds. While circling the city the crew determined that fuel levels would force them to ditch the mission. Sweeney decided that against orders he would do a radar run, a system that in 1945 was notoriously inaccurate. As the plane prepared to drop the bomb, twenty seconds before release, Beahan spotted a cloud break and shouted over the intercom, “I can see [Nagasaki], I can see it, I’ve got it!” Sweeney halted the radar drop and answered, “You own it.” Co-pilot Fred Olivi would recall that Beahan “took over, set up the bombsight and dropped the bomb.”
Both planes quickly turned to flee the explosion but even as they speed away all aboard the planes were aware of an intense flash that could even be seen through their arc-welder glasses. William Laurence a reporter flying on The Great Artiste would later write:

Observers in the tail of our ship saw a giant ball of fire rise as though from the bowels of the earth, belching forth enormous white smoke rings. Next, they saw a giant pillar of purple fire, 10,000 feet high, shooting skyward with enormous speed … [As the radioactive cloud reached the plane’s altitude] it was no longer smoke, or dust, or even a cloud of fire. It was a living thing, a new species of being, right before our incredulous eyes.

The cloud rising to almost 60,000 feet seemed to chase the planes and the crew of the Bockscar had to take evasive manoeuvres to escape the cloud. Co-pilot Fred Olivi reported that Sweeney “dove the aircraft down and to the right with full throttles, to pull away from the oncoming mushroom cloud. For a while, I couldn’t tell whether we were gaining on it, or it was gaining on us … But then we began to see that we were pulling away and we escaped the radiation.”
As they put distance between the cloud and the planes someone on either the Bockscar or The Great Artiste took the famous Fat Man photo.
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Mission crew


Nagasaki, Japan, before and after the atomic bombing of August 9, 1945.

Nagasaki, Japan, before and after the atomic bombing of August 9, 1945.


Nagasaki, Japan, before and after the atomic bombing of August 9, 1945
The Bockscar crew was made up of:
Maj Charles W. Sweeney, Flight Commander
Capt Charles Donald Albury, Pilot
2nd Lt Fred Olivi, regular co-pilot
Capt James van Pelt, navigator
Capt Kermit Beahan, bombardier
Master Sergeant John D. Kuharek, flight engineer
SSgt Ray Gallagher, gunner, assistant flight engineer
SSgt Edward Buckley, radar operator
Sgt Abe Spitzer, radio operator
Sgt Albert Dehart, tail gunner
CDR Frederick L. Ashworth USN, weaponeer
LT Philip Barnes (USN), assistant weaponeer
2nd Lt Jacob Beser, radar countermeasures

Accompanying the Bockscar was another B-29 bomber The Great Artiste

Capt. Frederick C. Bock, aircraft commander
Lt. Hugh C. Ferguson, co-pilot
Lt. Leonard A. Godfrey, navigator
Lt. Charles Levy, bombardier
Master Sgt. Roderick F. Arnold, flight engineer
Sgt. Ralph D. Belanger, assistant flight engineer
Sgt. Ralph D. Curry, radio operator
Sgt. William C. Barney, radar operator
Sgt. Robert J. Stock, tail gunner
S/Sgt. Walter Goodman
Reporter William Lawrence

Final landing

Once the bomb was dropped and the planes headed home. Commander Sweeney couldn’t get any response on the radio from Navy rescue squad that was supposed to accompany the Bockscar back to base. Since they were hours behind schedule the crew determined that the Navy had given up and returned home. Due to fuel constraints, they headed to Okinawa but couldn’t raise anyone at Okinawa’s Yontan airfield. To get the attention of the ground crews Sweeny ordered the firing of all flares on board and then brought the plane in for a landing. They landed halfway down the runway narrowly missing a B-24 taking off and a line of parked B-24s. Only the skill of the pilots prevented the plane from crashing. After they grounded the plane they discovered that there was only seven gallons of fuel left, about one minute of flight time for a B-29. When emergency crews reached the plane a paramedic popped the hatch and asked where the wounded and dead were? Commander Sweeney pointed north towards Nagasaki and said, “back there.”

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Raising The Flag On Iwo Jima


Behind the camera: AP photographer Joe Rosenthal and cinematographer Staff Sgt. Bill Genaust
Where: Mount Suribachi on the small island of Iwo Jima
Photo Summary: Marines raise a second flag over the Volcanic Mount Suribachi on the small island of Iwo Jima, Japan
Picture Taken: The stars and stripes was raised on Suribachi’s summit at 10:37, Feb 23, 1945

Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history. Of the 70,000 marines that hit the beach, 6,281 never left alive and a further 19,217 were wounded. Yet more than a quarter of all the Medals of Honor, given to Marines in World War II were for this epic clash. Up to World War II, every generation of Marines had to fight for the Marine Corps’ right to exist. So when the Navy Secretary, James Forrestal saw the first flag raising on Mt Suribachi and knowing the cost in blood to get it there he said to Marine commander, Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith “the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.” The battle, and the greater Pacific campaign, is remembered by this photo taken by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal.

Update: 2016


Iwo Jima flagraising color legend
In 2014 an article in The Omaha World-Herald published an investigative report based on the research of two people Stephen Foley, from Ireland, and Eric Krelle, an Omaha-based historian. They determined that due to the equipment and uniform of the men in the second flag raising photo John Bradley couldn’t have been in the shot. In 2016 after looking at the research the son of John Bradley and the author of “Flags of Our Fathers” thinks “that he now believes his father is not actually in it.” A Marine investigation into the matter determined that John Bradley was in fact not in the second flag raising photo and that it was actually, Harold Schultz.

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Schultz was wounded just days after the picture was taken. Wounds in his arm and stomach were serious enough that he was sent back to the mainland. After several months recuperating Harold Schultz was discharged from the Marines. He worked as a mail carrier in Los Angeles, and died in 1995, only mentioning that he was in the iconic photo once to his family. Schultz’s stepdaughter, Dezreen MacDowell, remembers that

After he said that, it was clear he didn’t want to talk about it,… He was a very self-effacing Midwestern person. He was already sick and died two or three years later.

Another investigation was launched into the first flag raising and it was determined that there two Marines that were misidentified. The investigation determined that “private first class Louis Charlo and James Michels weren’t among the men who raised the first flag atop Mount Suribachi.”

Sulphur Island


Mt Suribachi - Iwo Jima

Present-day shot of Mt Suribachi on Iwo Jima


Iwo Jima or Iōtō (硫黄島) translated means sulphur island. On June 18, 2007, it was renamed Iōtō its pre-war name supposedly at the request of its former island residents. The name Iwo Jima actually came from a mispronunciation of the Japanese Kanji for the islands by the Japanese military. So the Kanji for the island (硫黄島) has never changed just how it is pronounced.
The volcanic island of Iwo Jima is only about 8 square miles (21 km²); it is nothing more than a black chunk of lava, covered in ash, thrusting out of the ocean. The island has little in the way of greenery and is covered with stinking sulphur hot springs and volcanic vents. Marines who lived through the invasion described Iwo Jima as hell on earth. It looked like hell, and the entrenched Japanese defenders made it one.
Iwo Jima was a strategic island for both the Japanese and the Americans. Halfway between US held Saipan Is and Japan, the US wanted Iwo Jima’s airfields so that US fighter craft could protect long-range bombers hammering Japan. To Japan, the island was considered home territory and never in the thousands of years of Imperial history had a foreign army conquered its soil. The Japanese strived to maximize the US cost of taking the island, hoping to force a settlement with the American government if enough marines died taking the island. The commander of Iwo Jima, General Kuribayashi, had been told, “if America’s casualties are high enough, Washington will think twice before launching another invasion against Japanese territory.”

Move Underground

General Kuribayashi planned a brilliant and unique defensive plan for Iwo Jima. Instead of defending from above ground where superior American naval and aerial bombing could cause extensive Japanese causalities, Kuribayashi planned to fight the Americans from underground. Over 1,500 rooms were dug out of the volcanic rock. Connecting the rooms were 16 miles of tunnels. Before the Japanese died each soldier was told to kill 10 Americans before they themselves were killed. Japanese doctrine called for no surrender and no survivors.

The Battle Begins

After days of bombardment on February 19, 1945, battleship guns fired again signalling D-Day. The naval guns stopped for a few minutes at which time bombers struck the island and then another volley from the navy. At H-Hour (H-Hour was scheduled for 9:00 a.m.; the first assault wave of armored tracked landing vehicles began landing at 8:59 a.m.), the first of 30,000 marines to land that day struck the beaches. The Marines encountered only light fire near the shore but were bogged down with the island’s black volcanic ash that stuck to everything. The loose ash prevented good footing and the digging of foxholes. As the Marines moved on the landing the Japanese opened up from their fortified positions. With no cover US forces were mowed down by hidden positions placed to give deadly interlocking fire.
The fighting was bitter and the Americans took heavy causalities. Marines rarely had a target as the Japanese fought from their immense system of bunkers and tunnels. Often a bunker or pillbox would be declared safe only to have it open fire again when the Japanese occupied the guns again via their tunnel systems.

Hiking up Iwo Jima

Marines head up the hill with flag

The march to the top

After four days of brutal fighting, Marines had fought their way to the base of the volcano when CO of 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, Lt. Colonel Chandler Johnson sent down the word to take the summit of Mt Suribachi. Earlier, a four-man patrol lead by Sgt. Sherman Watson had climbed the hill with no resistance and reported no Japanese presence at the top in the crater. Executive Officer, Lt. Shrier was selected to lead an attacking force to the top of the volcano. The patrol had about 40 men, mostly made up of elements from the 2d Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division E Company and some of F Company. Before he left Johnson handed Shrier an American flag and told him to take it with him and if possible put it up. Johnson’s adjutant, second lieutenant Greeley Wells, had taken the 54-by-28 inch (137-by-71 cm) American flag from their transport ship, the USS Missoula (APA-211).

First Iwo Jima Flag Raising

Lowery's picture of the first flag raising. It is usually captioned as 1st Lt. Harold G. Schrier with Platoon Sergeant Ernest I. Thomas, Jr. (both seated), PFC James Michels (in the foreground with a rifle), Sergeant Henry O. Hansen (standing, wearing soft cap), Corporal Charles W. Lindberg (standing, extreme right), on Mount Suribachi at the first flag raising. However, PFC Raymond Jacobs has offered some compelling evidence that disputes these identifications and insists that it caption should read: Pfc James Robeson (lower-left corner), Lt. Harold Schrier (sitting behind my legs), Pfc Raymond Jacobs (carrying radio), Sgt. Henry Hansen (cloth cap), unknown (lower hand on the pole), Sgt Ernest Thomas (back to camera), Phm2c John Bradley (helmet above Thomas), Pfc James Michels (with carbine), Cpl Charles Lindberg (above Michels).


The climb up the hill was tough because of the loose ash, which was made even deeper from the naval, artillery and aerial bombardment. However, there was no Japanese resistance, some speculate that the Japanese were still in their bunker system awaiting more bombing runs. When the patrol reached the top of the mountain a quick search determined there was no enemy visible, and Lt. Shrier set up a defensive perimeter around the volcano crater. The men were able to find a water pipe that the Japanese had used before it became punctured by shrapnel. By digging a hole and then taking turns pushing the improvised, water pipe, flagpole down into the ground the stars and stripes was raised on Suribachi’s summit at 10:37, Feb 23.

Lowery’s picture of the first flag raising. It is usually captioned as 1st Lt. Harold G. Schrier with Platoon Sergeant Ernest I. Thomas, Jr. (both seated), PFC James Michels (in the foreground with a rifle), Sergeant Henry O. Hansen (standing, wearing soft cap), Corporal Charles W. Lindberg (standing, extreme right), on Mount Suribachi at the first flag raising. However, PFC Raymond Jacobs has offered some compelling evidence that disputes these identifications and insists that it caption should read: Pfc James Robeson (lower-left corner), Lt. Harold Schrier (sitting behind my legs), Pfc Raymond Jacobs (carrying radio), Sgt. Henry Hansen (cloth cap), unknown (lower hand on the pole), Sgt Ernest Thomas (back to camera), Phm2c John Bradley (helmet above Thomas), Pfc James Michels (with carbine), Cpl Charles Lindberg (above Michels).
This was the first raising of the flag on the volcano mountaintop and not the raising captured in the famous Rosenthal’s picture. The flag-raising on Iwo Jima was the first time American flags had been raised on Japanese soil in conquest. (A number of flags were raised on Iwo Jima; including one at the base of Suribachi, two on the volcano summit, and one on Hill 165).
Seconds after the flag went up marines across the island, still in combat, let out a huge roar. The screaming and cheering went on for some minutes and was so loud that the men could hear it quite clearly all the way from the top of Suribachi. The spontaneous celebration got even louder when the boats on the beach and the ships at sea joined in with blowing horns and whistles.
Unfortunately, the celebration alerted Japanese soldiers in underground positions to the Marine’s presence on the top of the volcano. Japanese soldiers used grenade attacks and rifle fire from caves and bunkers on the volcano rim to attack the flag raisers. Marines responded with flamethrowers, grenades, BAR and rifle fire. An intense but brief firefight ensued with the Japanese threat quickly suppressed and the caves cleared.

In fact in one cave we counted 142 Japs. And the flame throwers did a fine job on top of the mountain. We tried to talk them out. They wouldn’t come out, so then we used the flame throwers as a last resort.
–John Bradley

Marina Amaral Colourization and cover of the The World Aflame


There were no American causalities in this action except for Sgt. Lou Lowery’s camera. Lowery was a photographer for Leatherneck magazine. The broken camera was the same that had captured the raising of the first flag, but the film was still able to be developed.

Flag Raising Take two

As Sgt. Lou Lowery hiked back down the hill to find another camera, he ran into three other reporters who were hiking Suribachi in hopes of capturing the flag raising. Lowery gave them the bad news that they missed it but said the climb was worth it for the view. The three were AP photographer Joe Rosenthal, cinematographer Staff Sgt. Bill Genaust, and Pfc. Bob Campbell also shooting still pictures. Following Lowery’s advice, the three decided to finish the climb to the top.
When the first flag was raised commander Colonel Johnson heard that Navy Secretary James Forrestal was asking about the flag for a memento of Iwo Jima. Johnson was determined that the flag stays with the battalion and that the Navy Secretary or anyone else not get a hold of it. Immediately he sent for another larger flag to switch with the one that was raised first. (The first flag’s dimensions were 28″ x 54″ inches and was a battle ensign acquired from attack transport USS Missoula. The second flag a 56”-by-90” battle ensign was taken from tank landing ship LST-779. Which according to Lieutenant junior grade Alan Wood he, in turn, had taken from a salvage yard in Pearl Harbor. Both were 48-star flags.)
Upon reaching the top of the hill the three reporters, Rosenthal, Genaust and Campbell, first learned that the first flag was to be lowered as the larger flag was raised. Joe Rosenthal tells what happened on the summit:

I said, ‘What are you doing, fellas,’ and one of them responded, ‘We’re getting ready to put up this larger flag. The Colonel down below wants it up. He also wants to make damn sure he gets that first flag back.’
I thought of trying to get a shot of the two flags, one coming down and the other going up, but although this turned out to be a picture Bob Campbell got, I couldn’t line it up. Then I decided to get just the one flag going up, and I backed off about 35 feet.
Here the ground sloped down toward the center of the volcanic crater, and I found that the ground line was in my way. I put my Speed Graphic down and quickly piled up some stones and a Jap sandbag to raise me about two feet (I am only 5 feet 5 inches tall) and I picked up the camera and climbed up on the pile. I decided on a lens setting between f-8 and f-11 and set the speed at 1-400th of a second.
At this point, 1st Lt. Harold G. Shrier … stepped between me and the men getting ready to raise the flag. When he moved away, Genaust came across in front of me with his movie camera and then took a position about three feet to my right. ‘I’m not in your way, Joe?’ he called.
‘No,’ I shouted, ‘and there it goes.’
Out of the corner of my eye, as I had turned toward Genaust, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera, and shot the scene.

How the pose rumor started


Rosenthal Gung Ho Picture

Rosenthal taking the "Gung Ho" shot


Army photographers rarely knew what they had captured with their shot’s and Rosenthal had no inkling of what he had taken. To make sure he had something worth the climb, he gathered all the Marines on the summit together for a triumphant shot under the flag. It was this shot that would become known as the “gung-ho” picture. When AP wired him with congratulations on a great shot Rosenthal assumed that they were referring to his “gung-ho” picture. He didn’t see the flag-raising picture until he was shown a print at the press pool in Guam on March 9.
It was here that Rosenthal was asked if he had posed the shot. Thinking that the man was talking about the “gung ho” shot Rosenthal replied that yes he had, “Yes, yes, I had to work on them, as a matter of fact, to get up there because they were all tired and dirty and they were still aware that there were caves around and there were occasional pistol and gunshots into the cave openings.” A passing reporter overheard this, and also assumed that Rosenthal was talking about the flag-raising shot. The rumour circulated and soon reached America when Time magazine’s radio show, “Time Views the News,” put on the air a report that Rosenthal climbed Suribachi after the flag had already been planted and then had the marines replant it in a more dramatic pose. AP and Rosenthal were able to get Time to retract the story within days and issue an apology to Rosenthal but the rumour that he staged the photo would never die.
It didn’t help that the Marine Corps glossed over that the first flag-raising had taken place. Historians, Albee and Freeman in their book, Shadow of Suribachi, state that from early 1945 to September 1947, General Vandegrift laid down a policy that suppressed recognition of any pictures taken at Iwo Jima that might diminish the Rosenthal shot. Thus Vandegrift ruled that Leatherneck magazine could not publish any of the shots that Lowery took of the first flag raising. It wasn’t until 1947 that Lowery was able to publish and get credit for taking the pictures he shot.
The man most responsible for the staged stage story Time-Life correspondent Robert Sherrod admitted that he was wrong a long time ago yet the rumor has staying power. Even with all the info was released by the military in 1991 a New York Times story suggested that the Pulitzer Prize committee consider revoking Rosenthal’s 1945 award for photography. Then four years later columnist Jack Anderson promised an expose that Rosenthal had “accompanied a handpicked group of men for a staged flag-raising hours after the original event.” He later backed down and admitted he too was wrong. Yet the posed story persists rearing its head every few years.

3D Image


Iwo Jima 3D

If you have 3-D glasses you can view this 3D image.

When Rosenthal clicked the button on his camera and took his famous picture he was standing next to Marine cinematographer Sgt. Bill Genaust. Genaust filmed the flag raising and not only does the film clip that Genaust took prove that the Rosenthal shot was spontaneous but it is shot at almost the same angle, height, and distance as the Rosenthal shot. In fact, a single frame is almost exactly the same as the famous flag-raising. The slight difference between the two pictures makes for an interesting effect: By juxtaposing Rosenthal’s photograph with a picture made from Genaust’s single frame of the same scene you can create a 3-D image of one of the most, if not the most famous moments in American military history.
Twelve people raised the flag two separate times on February 23, 1945. Of the twelve, six were killed during fighting on Iwo Jima. Not counting the six killed, four were wounded, that’s ten out of the twelve listed as causalities (wounded or killed). Also, two of the twelve were Native Americans.

Team who raised the flag

First flag raising

  • PFC Louis C. Charlo
  • Louis Charlo was born on September 26, 1926, in Missoula, Montana. A Flathead Indian, Charlo was a great-grandson of Salish Chief Charlo. He was one of the men in Sgt. Watson’s 4 man F Company patrol which made the first climb up Suribachi. Charlo died on Iwo Jima on March 2, 1945, shot in the head by a Japanese sniper.

  • Srg Thomas, Jr “Boots” Ernest
  • Thomas was born on March 10, 1924, in Tampa, Florida. Sergeant Ernest was the Platoon Sergeant, a Staff Noncommissioned Officer rank above that of sergeant and was only below Lieutenant Shrier. Thomas was killed on March 3, 1945.

  • Sergeant Henry Oliver (“Hank”) Hansen
  • Hank Hansen was born on December 14, 1919, in Boston, Massachusetts. He joined the Marines before the war in 1938 and was trained as a Paramarine. A spit and polish marine he is quoted as getting mad at some marines who were horsing around after the flag-raising:

    I said to fellow marine Leo Rosek, ‘I have to pee’ Rosek said back ‘Great idea’ and the two peed down the volcano. I said I proclaim this volcano the property of the United States of America.’
    …Hansen took this in and was indignant, ‘Knock that off! Who do you think you are?’ … I said, ‘I’m an American citizen!’ Hank changed the subject

    On March 1, 1945, Hansen took a bullet and died in John Bradley’s arms.

  • PFC James (Jim) R. Michels
  • Michels flag raiser from Iwo Jima

    PFC James (Jim) R. Michels


    Michels was a 27 years old man of German blood who was born in Chicago, IL. He was one of only four marines of the 3rd platoon, the platoon that first scaled Suribachi, that left the island untouched. He can be seen in the foreground with a machine gun in Lowery’s image of the first flag raising. When he returned to America he got married and had four daughters. He died on January 17, 1982.

  • Corporal Charles W. Lindberg
  • Lindberg was the marine who had to climb Mt Suribachi with a 72-pound flame-thrower strapped to his back. He would later remark, “Suribachi was easy to take; it was getting there that was so hard!” Lindberg himself would be shot through the stomach and arm a week later on 1 March 1945. For his heroism, Lindberg would receive the Purple Heart and Silver Star Medal. Lindberg was the last official remaining man alive of the twelve who raised a flag on Mount Suribachi. He was wounded six days later and was awarded the U.S. Navy’s third-highest award, the Silver Star. He died on June 24, 2007.

  • 2nd Lieutenant Harold Schrier
  • Schrier led the patrol up Mt. Suribachi, where he and his men raised a small (54″ X 28″) American flag. He was later awarded the Silver Star for leading the defense against a fanatical Japanese attack. After the war, Schrier remained in the service and saw action again in Korea. He retired as Lieutenant Colonel and moved to Bradenton, Florida where he died on June 3, 1971. He is buried in Mansion Memorial Park, Ellerton, Florida.

    Second Team


    Second Team and the ones captured in the Rosenthal shot:
    Film Clips from Iwo Jima

    Stills taken from Bill Genaust's film

  • Corporal Harlon Block
  • Harlon Block was born on November 6, 1924, in Yorktown, Texas. When the picture of the second raising first came out, Block was misidentified as Harry Hansen. (To make things more confusing Harry Hansen is one of the men who raised the first flag) On Feb. 25, when Harlon’s mother, saw the picture in the Weslaco Newspaper she declared, “That’s Harlon” pointing to the figure on the far right. Belle never wavered in her belief that it was Harlon insisting, “I know my boy.” It wasn’t until a Congressional investigation 18 months later and the testimony of Ira Hayes that Harlon Block not, Hansen was acknowledged as the one of the six. On 1 March, Block took over the squad after Sergeant Strank was killed. A few hours later, a mortar shell ripped him open from groin to neck. John Bradley later recounted how Block screamed, “They killed me!” as his intestines spilled onto the volcanic ash. Block is buried beside the Iwo Jima Monument in Harlingen, Texas.

  • Navy Corpsman John H. Bradley
  • John Bradley was born on July 10, 1923, in Antigo, Wisconsin. Bradley is the only one who isn’t a Marine but a Navy Corpsman. Corpsmen are part of the navy trained as trained in field medical aid, in World War II they were also called, Pharmacist Mates. Bradley was an intensely private man who after the war rarely gave interviews. His Son James Bradly who after his father’s death wrote the book, Flags of Our Fathers, says that John trained him to answer the phone saying, “No, I’m sorry sir, my dad’s not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don’t know when he is coming back.” As a corpsman, John Bradley knew the horrors of Iwo Jima better than most. First hand he saw the horrors of war as he tried to patch up the young wounded marines, many he could do nothing but watch them die. He won the Navy Cross for heroism and was wounded in both legs. Bradley married, raised eight children, operated funeral home. He himself would pass away on January 11, 1994 at the age of 70. His local newspaper captured how John with his fame had lived two lives:

    John Bradley will be forever memorialized for a few moments action at the top of a remote Pacific mountain. We prefer to remember him for his life. If the famous flag-raising at Iwo Jima symbolized American patriotism and valor, Bradley’s quiet, modest nature and philanthropic efforts shine as an example of the best of small town American values.

  • PFC Rene A. Gagnon
  • Rene Gagnon was born on March 7, 1925, in Manchester, New Hampshire. He was part of the four-man team who carried the second flag to the top of Mount Suribachi. It was Gagnon that when using an enlarged Rosenthal photo he identified the other five wrongly naming Harlon Block as Harry Hansen. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt brought the surviving flag raisers home Gagnon was the first to arrive. At first, Gagnon refused to give the name of the sixth flag raiser insisting that he had promised to keep the man’s name a secret. Finally, Gagnon named the sixth raiser as Private First Class Ira H. Hayes. Of the three survivors Gagnon loved the celebrity, and the perks it brought. However, like Bradley and Hayes, he did not call himself a hero. Gagnon died of a heart attack on October 12, 1979, and his gravestone is the only tablet with an inscription and a brass bas-relief of the famous picture on the back.

  • Corporal Ira H. Hayes
  • Ira Hayes was born on January 12, 1923, in Sacaton, Arizona. Ira was a Pima Indian and when he joined the marines his chief told him to be an Honorable Warrior. Ira always struggled with his fame and couldn’t get over his guilt of how many friends had died while he had lived. When reporters asked him how it felt to be a hero he replied, “How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?” Ira fought a constant battle with his war memories and heavily medicated himself with alcohol. When asked about his problems with alcohol Hayes said, “I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they’re not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me.” After the war, Hayes accumulated some fifty arrests for drunkenness and on January 24, 1955, Hayes was found dead on the Gila River Indian Reservation. He had been drinking and playing cards with several other men, including his brothers Kenny and Vernon, and another fellow Pima named Henry Setoyant. The coroner concluded that Hayes’ death was due to exposure and too much alcohol. However, his brother Kenny remained convinced that it somehow resulted from a scuffle with Setoyant. Ira Hayes story has always attracted a lot of attention and is immortalized in a song, “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” by Peter LaFarge and performed by Johnny Cash and later Bob Dylan. Before he died Ira was in two movies starring as himself raising the flag at Iwo Jima. There has even been a movie made about his life called, The Outsider (1961) and starring Tony Curtis.

  • PFC Franklin Sousley
  • Franklin Sousley was born on Sept. 19, 1925, in Hilltop, Kentucky. He was raised on a small farm growing tobacco. In what can be described as a “hillbilly” life Frank attended a two-room schoolhouse and was known as a practical joker. His best friend in Hilltop talks about Franks antics, “Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn’t get down. Then we fed them Epson salts. Those cows crapped all night.”Sousley was the last of the three to die on Iwo Jima Almost a month after raising the flag, on March 21, he was shot in the back by a sniper at Iwo Jima. When someone shouted, “How ya doin’?” Sousley replied, “Not bad. I don’t feel anything.” Then he fell and died. The telegram that reported the death was delivered to the Hilltop general store. After his mother found out, neighbors from across all around could hear her screaming.

  • Sergeant Mike Strank
  • Born on 10 November 1919 in Jarabenia, Czechoslovakia. Strank was known as the “old man” because he was older, 25, than the other men, in his unit. Growing up Mike was blessed with a photographic memory, played the French Horn and had even hit a baseball out of Points Stadium. Strank had been in the Marines since he enlisted in Pittsburgh on 6 October 1939 but was only with the company E for a few months. Even though he had a short time with the men Strank was looked up to by his unit and by all accounts was a great leader. Before Iwo Jima Mike’s superior had tried to promote him, he turned it down saying, “I trained those boys and I’m going to be with them in battle.” On March 1, shrapnel ripped out Strank’s heart killing him instantly.

    Photographers

  • Joe Rosenthal
  • Joe Rosenthal in 1990

    Joe Rosenthal in 1990


    AP Photographer Joe Rosenthal was born on 9th October 1911 in Washington, DC. He always loved photography and after finishing college became a staff photographer with the San Francisco Examiner. After Pearl Harbor and America joined the war Rosenthal tried to join the US Army as a military photographer but was rejected due to poor eyesight. He was able to find another way in the war by getting a job as an AP Photographer. Rosenthal was on the beaches since Feb 19th (lugging his bulky 4×5 Speed Graphic camera which is now housed in the George Eastman House museum) and took a total of 65 pictures over 11 days on Iwo Jima. Even though he took a number of dramatic shots before and after the flag-raising, yet will always be remembered for his famous shot. In 1945, the picture won the Pulitzer Prize. After the war, Rosenthal became chief photographer and manager of Times Wide World Photos. Later he worked for the San Francisco Chronicle with a fellow cameraman, Bob Campbell, the same photographer who hiked Suribachi with him.
    Since taking the picture he has been hounded by the press almost as much as the flag raisers. Before he died at the age of 94 in Aug 2006 he’d done more than 18,000 interviews. Before in yet another interview, he tried to get across what being part of one of the most famous moments of World War II is like, “I don’t know how to get across to anybody what 50 years of constant repetition means.” When asked about the rumors of his faking the image he said if he did fake it, he would have told them to do it over, “I can’t see your faces.”
    On August 20, 2006, at the ripe old age of 94, Rosenthal died of natural causes in his sleep in Novato, a suburb of San Francisco.

  • Staff Sergeant William H. Genaust
  • Genaust shot a historic color movie of the raising of the second flag with a hand-held Bell & Howell motion picture camera loaded with slow (8 ASA) 16 mm Kodachrome film. Before Iwo Jima, Genaust saw action in Saipan where he was forced to put down his camera and use his gun to fend off a Japanese charge, taking a bullet in the thigh. For this action, he was recommended for a medal. Nine days after the filming Genaust was killed by Japanese soldiers in the caves on Hill 362A. He was 38 and left behind a wife of 17 years. The cave entrance was brought down by explosives and then later sealed by bulldozers. After Iwo Jima was secured and bodies all over the island were being recovered, the cave was determined to be too dangerous due to explosives. Over time, the cave entrance has been lost and his body was never recovered. Although his film clip was used extensively, Genaust was not publicly identified by the Marine Corps or given credit. It took a decades-long campaign by fellow Iwo Jima survivor Sgt. Harrold Weinberger to honor Genaust. Finally, in 1995, a plaque was placed atop Suribachi saying: SGT. WILLIAM HOMER GENAUST. MARINE COMBAT CAMERAMAN. SHOT HISTORIC MOVIE OF FLAG RAISING. WON BRONZE STAR. KILLED IN ACTION, MAR. 4, 1945. AGE 38.
    In June of 2007, a team of experts was sent to Iwo To (The Island was renamed in 2007 to its pre-war name) in search of Genaust’s remains. They identified two caves on Hill 362A that could hold his remains but were blocked from entering out of fear of unexploded ordnance and cave-in dangers. The team sent their finding to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) research center which is dedicated to finding American service men’s remains around the world. The JPAC team will hopefully do a follow-up investigation to search the newly discovered tunnels. The JPAC team was able to discover the caves thank to another investigation lead by American businessman Bob Bolus. Bolus spent thousands of dollars of his own money to track down new leads after reading about Genaust’s fate in 2005. However, when the men returned in 2007 they did not find the remains of Genaust or anyone else. Another trip was sent in 2008 but it to ended in failure.
    Later in 2008, Mr. Bolus came across Gareth Rosson, an Army veteran from Canton, Ill., who was stationed on Iwo Jima after the war. Rosson remembers that a memorial was set up while he was there showing that while Genaust was buried on Hill 362A it was on the north slope, not the southwest side where the earlier search was centred. Bolus is attempting to convince the Japanese government to allow another trip to the island.

    LST-758 or LST-779

    Recently the United States Coast Guard ran a story about a claim by Robert L. Resnick, now 82, a Coast Guard veteran and quartermaster on LST-758 on of many ships present during Battle of Iwo Jima. He claims that the large flag flown on Mt Suribachi wasn’t taken from LST-779 but his own LST-758:

    on the morning of February 23, 1945. Just after 11:15 a.m., a helmeted young Marine with dark sideburns came aboard LST-758 … requesting the flag … Resnick recalls climbing the 10-foot steel ladder to the signal bridge. Rummaging around in the wooden bunting box, he worked his way toward the bottom and felt a large flag, still folded.
    Gagnon then asked for a 20-30 foot pipe … he was given a 21-foot galvanized steel steamfitter’s pipe. It weighed more than 150 pounds, Resnick said. Gagnon slung it over his left shoulder, tucked Resnick’s flag under his right arm, and headed up the volcano as Resnick stood on the deck watching history unfold.
    “Renee Gagnon struggled mightily but the sand at the base of the volcano was too soft and Gagnon barely made any headway,” notes Resnick. “Then he dropped the pole and pulled it by its nose. Evidently, he called up to the summit and two other Marines shouldered the pipe and Gagnon carried the flag the rest of the way up.”
    Resnick said it was probably a 20-minute journey.
    Beached under the precipice of Mt. Suribachi, Resnick’s ship lost track of the men as Mt. Suribachi obstructed their view. As LST-758 began leaving the beach in reverse, Resnick heard, “a tremendous and sudden ovation from every man on the beach.”
    “There was a whooping and hollering — a tremendous cheer as the flag went up,” said Resnick. “Every ship tooted its horn,” he said. “The memory is very clear and compounded by great sentiment and great apprehension as I recall the sites of death,” said Resnick.

    Doubt is cast on his story because it is never mentioned that Gagnon brought the pipe with him up the volcano. Most accounts speak of finding pipes on the summit for both flags. Also, Renee was involved with the second raising, not the first and the second raising was hardly noticed by anyone, it was the first raising when “a tremendous and sudden ovation from every man on the beach.”

    Maker of the Flag

    In the run-up to the war, small American factories made the US flags that flew from ships, military bases, funeral services, etc. One of these little plants was the “flag loft” at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo California. There one lady, Mrs. Mabel Sauvageau, made flags and battle jackets for the men.

    There were about 100 girls on each shift and I did the assembling, stitching the flags and putting the stars and stripes together. They told me the flag had my number on it — 320 — I remember that We packed the flags in bundles of 10 and the 10th flag on top had the number on it. If it had been one of the other flags, I never would have known.

    Her number, 320, was discovered on the second flag that was raised on Iwo Jima and whose image was captured by Rosenthal. The Navy was able to track Mabel Sauvageau down to her factory and tell her not too soon after the flag-raising that the famous flag was one she made. Sauvageau remembers that “At the time, I didn’t think too much of it, but I guess anybody would feel proud.” In the early ’70s, the military again tracked her down to present her with a framed picture of the raising autographed by Rosenthal.

    Aftermath

    The Rosenthal shot was famous almost right away but what would make probably the most reprinted military picture ever was the 1945 7th bond tour. During World War II the American government paid for the war effort by selling bonds to the US public. By 1945 there had been six “Bond Tours”. The tours were big showy events with Hollywood stars, music, and stadium appearances all designed to sell bonds. When the flag-raising picture started appearing on all the major newspapers FDR knew he had a symbol for the next tour.
    He quickly arranged for the surviving flag raisers to get back to the States, to lead the bond drive. Soon the three surviving members of the flag-raising: Bradley, Hayes and Gagnon were meeting the president and touring the country in an effort to sell more bonds. The Rosenthal shot was reproduced everywhere covering America with pictures of the Iwo Jima flag-raising. It hung in:
    One million Retail Store windows.
    16,000 Movie Theaters.
    15,000 Banks.
    200,000 Factories.
    30,000 Railroad Stations.
    5,000 Large Billboards.
    With Bradley, Hayes and Gagnon in tow, the 7th Bond Tour raised $24 Billion (1945 Dollars) for the US war effort. Considering that the US budget for 1946 was 56 billion this was quite an achievement.
    In addition to posters and other reproductions of the image in July 1945, the United States Post Office also released a postage stamp of the shot. Making it one of the few times that the US post office has released a stamp with images of living people.

    Battle Won


    From the initial landing on February 19 the battle raged on with marines slowly, and at great cost, pushing the entrenched Japanese fighters further and further into the northern corner of the island. Finally on the night of March 25 almost after a month of fighting the surviving Japanese forces launched a final counterattack with a 300-man banzai charge near Airfield Number 2. This final Japanese attack lasted until the morning with the elimination of the entire Japanese attacking force. The island was declared, “secure” the following day.
    Of the over 22,000 Japanese defenders, 20,703 were killed and up till March 25, only 216 were captured. Of the about 70,000 marines who landed on Iwo Jima, there were 27,909 casualties. Of these, there were 6,825 marines killed in action. Over a quarter of the Medals of Honor given out in World War II were presented to Marines for this one engagement
    Even though the island was declared secure on March 25, about 2000 soldiers hid out in the island’s vast tunnel system. Most of these surrendered in the months that followed but two men Yamakage Kufuku and Matsudo Linsoki, lasted four years, only surrendering in 1949. They had been surviving by stealing American supplies and only surrendered when they heard Christmas carols from a Tokyo radio station on a stolen American radio. They reasoned that the only way Christmas carols would be allowed to play in the Japanese capital was if Japan had lost the war.

    A Statue is born


    Iwo Jima flag raising color legend

    From left to right is Ira Hayes (red), Franklin Sousley (purple), Michael Strank (blue), Rene Gagnon (yellow), John Bradley (Green), Harlon Block (brown)

    Two days after the Rosenthal shot hit the papers US senators called for a national monument of the flag-raising. A talented sculptor Felix DeWeldon had a clay replica of ready within 72 hours of seeing the picture. Soon he was visiting the White House with his replica and plans of building the tallest bronze statue in the world. However, it would take 8 years to create the Iwo Jima Monument.
    First, a plaster was created using the Rosenthal shot, and the three survivors of the flag raising as models. Pictures and physical stats were used for the three men who had made the ultimate sacrifice on Iwo Jima.
    Once a plaster of the statue was completed it was disassembled and taken to Brooklyn, N.Y for casting. The casting took almost three years to complete. Again the pieces were trucked to Washington, D.C. by a three-truck convoy. About 12 pieces were reassembled, the largest weighed more than 20 tons, at the memorials resting place in Virginia, next to Arlington Cemetery. The memorial was designed to be aligned almost perfectly with the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the Capitol dome. After being bolted, welded and sprayed with a finish, the statue was officially dedicated by President Eisenhower on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps.
    The tallest marine is about 32 feet high. The flagpole itself is 60 feet in length. At 78 feet high it’s the world’s tallest bronze statue. The sculpture’s $850,000 price tag (1954 Dollars) was picked up by private donations, mostly other marines.
    An inscription on the memorial reads: “Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue.” This was a quote from Admiral. Chester A. Nimitz “Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

    Copyright Info

    Image licensing can be found at AP Images: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

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    Where: On top of the German Reichstag building in Berlin
    Photo Summary: The Soviet flag being raised over the German Reichstag building by Red Army soldiers
    Picture Taken: May 2, 1945

    In the closing days of World War II, the Communist Russian Red Army smashed its way into Berlin. In the Nazi capital, the German army was overwhelmed into pockets of resistance that either surrendered or fought fanatically to the last man. On the front lines with the Red Army was Yevgeny Khaldei, a Soviet war photographer. In the future, he would say that he spent every 1,481 days of the Russian-German war covering the Soviet battle for the motherland, but in Nazi Berlin, he was looking for one thing, his Iwo Jima shot. Khaldei had seen the pictures of American GI’s raising the flag over the Japanese volcano and before the war ended he wanted to snap a similar scene in Berlin.

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    Flag over the Reichstag color

    Colorized version

     

    Creating his Iwo Jima

    Choosing the German Parliament building, The Reichstag, as his Iwo Jima, Khaldei moved to create his Soviet Propaganda masterpiece. With frustration he discovered, he had a place to raise the USSR colors but no Soviet flag. Jumping on a plane back to Moscow he was able to convince employees of his news agency to give him three red tablecloths normally used for official functions. With his uncle, they spent the night sewing on stars, hammers, and sickles before Khaldei returned to Berlin. Even though the Reichstag had been abandoned since the fire of February 1933, which allowed Hitler to take power, it was still heavily defended.

    Who raised the flag?

    As Berlin fell in the closing days of the War, Red Army photographer Yevgeny Khaldei gathered some soldiers and had them pose a shot of them hoisting the flag (called the Victory Banner) on the roof of the Reichstag building. The photo represented a historic moment, the defeat of Germany in a war that cost the Soviet Union tens of millions of lives. The photo was published on May 13, 1945, in Ogonyok magazine. Out of the 36 Images that Khaldei took and of all the other photographers who took pictures of the flag on the roof it was Khaldei’s images that became iconic.

    Celebrated as the image is, it was a reconstruction of a moment that had happened earlier but had been missed by the cameras. The events surrounding the flag raising are murky due to the infamous, “fog of war” caused by the confusion of battle. On April 30th there was great pressure from the Soviet leadership to take the building seen as the “den of the fascist beast” before Mayday celebrations. First, two planes dropped several large red banners on the roof that appeared to have caught on the girders of the bombed-out dome. Also, a number of reports had reached Red Army headquarters that two parties, M.M. Bondar from the 380th Rifle Regiment and Captain V.N. Makov with the 756th might have been able to hoist a flag on the afternoon of April 30th. These reports made it back to Marshal G.K. Zhukov who issued an announcement stating that troops had captured the Reichstag and hoisted a flag. However, when correspondents arrived they found no Soviets in the building and in fact they were pinned down outside the Reichstag by Nazi fire. Zhukov’s announcement that the building had been taken was already broadcast to the world. When the local commander found out that the Nazis still controlled the building contrary to the official Soviet version of events he was frantic to get a flag up and ordered a push to get one somewhere, anywhere on the building.
    Soviet soldiers were able to use mortar rounds, fired horizontally, to punch through one of the bricked-up doorways. Splitting up into small teams to hide their purpose the Soviets slowly gained more and more control of the Reichstag interior. Even with the hold-out defenders a small Soviet five-man strike team was able to find a stairway and make their way to the top. At one point they had to use a tree to ram down a door. Making their way to the roof, they chose the mounted statue of Germania, a woman representing Germany, on the roof of the Reichstag to attach their banner. At first, they were going to use their belts to hold it in place but then noticed that the crown on the statue had holes where a flag pole would fit. So at 10:40 PM on April 30, 1945, a 27 years old Mikhail Petrovich Minin climbed the statue and inserted the flag in Germania’s crown. But this first-night flag-raising wasn’t captured on film.

    The real raising of the Reichstag-painting

    A painting in the Russian Voronezh Museum showing Mikhail Petrovich Minin and his strike team raising the flag

    The next day the German troops attacked when they saw the Soviet Victory Flag flying above. Only with Soviet reinforcements was the Red Army able to beat off the counter-attack. While the Nazis didn’t force the Soviets from the building they did manage to bring down the flag. Two days later the Germans that remained trapped in the basement finally surrendered and on the morning of May 2, 1945, they left the building under a white flag.

    Finally, Khaldei was able to scale the now pacified Reichstag to take his picture. The official story was that two soldiers: Georgian Meliton Kantaria (to please Stalin who was also Georgian) and the Russian Mikhail Yegorov had raised the flag on April 30. Further conflicting events made things even more confusing when reports emerged that a group of men led by Sergei E. Sorokin made it to the roof and also planted another flag.
    After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it emerged that due to political factors the subjects of the photo were changed and the actual man to hoist the flag, in the picture, was Alyosha Kovalyov. Accounts would emerge that Kovalyov, a Ukrainian, was told by the NKVD to keep quiet about his role in the flag-raising. The other man supporting Kovalyov was revealed in 1996 to be Abdulkhakim Ismailov. In addition to officially naming him as the man in the photo, the Russian government gave him a Hero of Russia medal. Ismailov died on February 16, 2010, in his native village of Chagar-Otar, in the restive southern Russian province of Dagestan.

    Reichstag and location of the flag raising copy

    The circle indicates where, on the East side of the Reichstag, the flag raising took place. Clicking on the image will show the Google Map location of the picture

    Yevgeny Khaldei

    Original Image


    Yevgeny Khaldei was born into a Ukrainian Jewish family on March 23, 1917, in Donbass, a Ukrainian steel town. He was still an infant when his mother was killed in an anti-Jewish pogrom in 1918. A true survivor, during the Soviet-designed famines that killed millions in Ukraine, Khaldei learned to eat grass to stay alive. Despite Stalin setting in motion the events that led to millions of his Ukrainian countrymen dying in the Famine, he was still loyal to the state.

    Edited version with smoke added

    From a young age, Khaldei was fascinated by photography. As a young teenager, he built his first camera from a lens of his grandmother’s glasses. Soon his pictures started to appear in a local paper the, Socialist Donbass. A few years later he would join the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) as a press photographer. On assignment, photographing children reciting poetry, as part of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the famous poet Mikhail Lermontov, he first heard the news that Germany had invaded. One of his most famous pieces, “War is announced” was taken on that day on June 22, 1941.

    Photographer of the Soviet Army

    Red army soldiers raising the soviet flag on the roof of the reichstag with two Watches

    The original photo with the watch on Ismailov’s right wrist

    Commissioned into the Soviet army as a lieutenant he was sent out to photograph the war. Sent into the field with just 160 feet of film because his editor thought that Hitler would be defeated within two weeks. Khaldei was first stationed in the Arctic city of Murmansk with a squadron of British pilots sent to protect the Soviet Union’s lifeline to the West, the Arctic convoys. As the war progressed he shot the liberation of major Soviet cities including Kerch and Sevastopol. At Yalta, he captured the Allies leaders planning post-Nazi Europe. He was part of the red wave that swept across Europe and crushed Berlin. His shot of the Soviet Hammer and Sickle flag over the Reichstag is one of the most significant of World War II. Symbolizing Soviet victory and revenge; not only did Khaldei immortalize the moment: he created it.

    Red army soldiers raising the soviet flag on the roof of the reichstag with two Watches

    The original photo (above) was altered by editing out the watch on Ismailov’s right wrist

    In his heroic Soviet propaganda style, he is probably the only journalist to arrange, choreograph and then capture such a symbolic event. He defended posing most of his pictures by insisting that the shot taken should match the importance of the event. As was the case with many Soviet and other journalists during the war, once the picture was taken and developed, that did not mean it was finished. Censors at the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) noticed that on the wrists of the solider in the picture there was not one but two watches indicating a common practice by all parties during World War II, looting. The officials thought the sight of looting members of the Red Army would look badly and told Khaldei to edit them out. Not stopping with the watches, Khaldei also added smoke to the background to add to the drama of a wartime shot. In a recent Art show commemorating his work, only one of his shots was actually taken during combat and not posed. In defence of Mr. Khaldei, he might have been too busy to actually take pictures during combat. Unlike their fellow Allied journalists, Soviet reporters carried arms and were soldiers first, journalists second.

    After the War

    Smoke over Berlin

    The smoke that was added to the image


    After the surrender of Germany, Khaldei covered many events including the Nazi war-crimes tribunals, the Nuremberg trials. In 1947 Robert Capa travelled to the Soviet Union with his friend, John Steinbeck. When he was leaving the country Soviet officials wanted to look through his undeveloped images. Capa refused to give them access unless Yevgeny Khaldei developed them. Capa had befriended the photographer while the two covered the Potsdam Conference and the Nuremberg Trials together and photographed one another there. Both men were hard-drinkers and recognized as playboy lady killers.

    Khaldei worked with TASS until 1948, when increased Stalin sanctioned antisemitism of the time or his support of Tito, who went against Stalin, forced him from the job. He struggled to find work as a lot of Jews did during that period, until Stalin died in 1953. After Stalin’s death, the antisemitism was brushed under the Soviet carpet and he was able to find work again at the Russian Newspaper giant, Pravda. While it was official state doctrine that everyone in the USSR was equal and there was no race problem like America, Khaldei still felt the ever-present antisemitism that has dogged Russian culture for centuries. He was allowed to take pictures of Russian musicians but forbidden to give coverage to Jewish artists. These double standards continued until finally in 1972 when he was again, because of his background, forced from his job at Pravda. Even though Russian antisemitism caused the death of his mother and Soviet antisemitism forced him from two jobs he still supports the Soviet communist dream:

    I was a son of Communists, and we were pioneers by the time I was 8. I was invited to Albania and flown there in President Enver Hodja’s plane at age 9. I militated for almost everything possible until I was 17. From then on, my conscience has been drawn inward and as a result, I can’t stand groups, organizations, and dominating ideologies anymore. This doesn’t mean that I don’t deeply respect the socialist ideal, and I’m a far cry from wanting to harp along with everyone else about the curse of communism. At least the respect for values and ideas exists in this ideal, which is terribly lacking nowadays. It’s no coincidence that most members of the Resistance movement were communists if they weren’t Jewish communists.
    Credit he deserved

    Antisemitism almost buried Khaldei into oblivion as his photos including his shot of the Soviet Flag over the bombed-out ruins of Berlin were published without credit. It was only till after the cold war and the collapse of communism that professors Alexander and Alice Nakhimovsky came across his name in the Russian archives and created a book showcasing his work, WITNESS TO HISTORY: The Photographs of Yevgeny Khaldei. Now the Khaldei Exhibition has a retrospective in major cities all over the world. The book even led to a movie about his life, Evgueni Khaldei: Photographer Under Stalin. Before he was discovered, Khaldei was surviving on a $35 monthly pension from the State. Just after the film was finished on Oct 6, 1997, at the age of 80 he died. He never made any money from royalties of his work but his son-in-law Yuri Bibichev said Khaldei didn’t care, “He was glad that what he had done over 80 years was of use to someone”.

    Copyright Status

    This image used to be copyright free but in 2006 the Russian State changed its copyright laws. So now images:

    • taken after 1943 (Image was taken in 1945)
    • images whose author wasn’t discovered before 1995 (Khaldei’s role was discovered in 1991)
    • the author died 70-years-ago (Khaldei past away in 1997)
    • the image was published 70-years-ago (This photo was published May 13, 1945, in the Ogonyok magazine.)

    Pictures that fit one of these conditions, like this picture, are all covered by copyright laws and not public domain images.

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