The Symbolism of Marines Raising the American Flag in Iwo Jima Through Rosenthal's Photo Lens

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Iwo Jima is an unlikely jewel. Just a miserable plot of volcanic ash, it is one of a series of small islands about 650 miles south of Tokyo. But a prize jewel nonetheless, for its capture promises further security in the Pacific and a strategically close strike-posture against Japan. It was here that the picture took place. This single image speaks for all America about her pride, her valor, and her sacrifice. The picture stands for the greatness of a nation and our ability to dominate the world.

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Marines of the 28th regiment of the 5th Division Raise the American Flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945. As Joe Rosenthal climbed up Mount Suribachi, just taken by Marines, he learned they had raised a flag at the peak. He arrived just in time to catch five more Marines as they raised a larger, 4-ft. by 8-ft. flag in its place. It is remarkable that the picture, which won the Pulitzer Prize, ever materialized in the first place. The hoisting of the flag occurred in the span of only four seconds. “I swung my camera around,” Rosenthal is quoted as saying in Flags of Our Fathers, “and held it until I could guess that this was the peak of the action, and shot. I couldn’t positively say I had the picture. It’s something like shooting a football play; you don’t brag until it’s developed.” Six men are frozen forever in the history of the nation Ira Hayes, Franklyn Sousley, Harlan Block, Michael Strank, John Bradley, and Rene Gagnon.

The picture is of six men on the top of a hill. The ground where the men are standing is in shambles. All that can be made out is broken branches and some vegetation. In the back round you can see the hills off in the distance showing another land mass. Centered in the picture are six soldiers, three of whom you can see very well two that are hidden and the last one is in front of the pack standing alone. All of these men are holding the pole of an American flag that they are raising. The flag is flapping in the wind as the soldiers struggle to raise it. We notice the flex in there knees and the determination in there stature. As we examine the picture closer we notice that the soldiers raising the flag are white American males. Upon first sight of the picture are eyes are drawn to the men in the center of the photo, next are eyes pull back and focus on the America flag as the soldiers raise it on top of the hill.

This picture depicts the American struggle for freedom and its overwhelming need to always be on top. In the picture we see that the marines are struggling. There muscles are flexed and it requires that more than one soldier must assist in putting this flag in the ground, showing us that this task was not easy. It is here that Americas struggle to be the best is displayed. Americans strive in everything we do to be number one. For example in the sports that we play we are taught that winning is the ultimate goal. Nobody likes a loser, are competitive edge is instilled in us from the time we are children till the time we reach adulthood. Once we reach adult hood we strive to be better than everyone else, from the cars we drive to the houses we live in we always want something better than the person next to us has. Americans never settle for second best.

We also realize that these soldiers are putting the flag at the top of a hill, not settling for half way up but demanding that it be on top for all to see. America never does settle for second best, in fact the best is often not good enough. In American culture the search for continuous improvement is constantly ongoing. Just when you think you have the best of something or you think that you are the best at doing something someone comes up with something new and better or somebody does what you do better.

In the picture only one soldier is carrying his weapon, showing there neglect for there own lives, there pride, there patriotism and there need for greatness taking over. America thinks that we are untouchable; no other country has the power or the resources to do anything to us. We take for granted what has happened to us in the past and even still what has happened in the present. Five months after The September 11th attack on us Americans are forgetting. The patriotism is leaving us, the need to display support is slowly fading away. No longer do you see flags flying on every building or do you see banners everywhere. We as Americans neglect what has happened because of our pride to over come the situations at hand.

This picture overlooks the reality of what happened on this day, all of are soldiers that died in Iwo Jima. From the picture all that we can see is the triumph of that day. Nowhere do we see the sadness the loss of fellow soldiers. No where in the picture do we see failure. This is the perception that America wants us to see. Americas cannot fail. We take the burden of having other countries look up to us because of this. When other countries are in trouble who do they turn to? America. It is here that we see our role as the worlds defenders against injustice and wrong doing takes place. When countries like Korea, Saudi Arabia and Bosnia get in trouble they look for the best to help them out. There perception being that America is the best and that they can fix any problem because they never quit and they always win.

When the flag is raised we wonder why? The flag is a symbol of our country and it is an Icon to many citizens in America. The soldiers could have placed anything atop of the hill they wanted, but they chose the American flag. They chose this symbol of American pride. A symbol that stands for guaranteed freedoms promised to all American nationals by our founding fathers in the Constitution for the United States of America. In this symbol and what it stands for one realizes that the soldiers used the flag to inspire the patriotism of a Nation. At a time when things were not going the way that America had wanted them we turned to our symbol. A symbol that stood for everything America wanted it to an American Icon of greatness and triumph to Inspire and Influence the future generations to come.

In Joe Rosenthal photo we realize that it is not just a photo of a few marines raising a flag up on a hill. We see that that flag, the struggle that the men went through to get it there and the determination to be the best has the backing of a whole nation. This image that was turned into a monument for all to see spoke and still speaks for America, It tells us about the people who call themselves Americans and there pride, there valor, and there sacrifice to be the best. The picture displays are greatness and our ability to dominate anything we want to. America will be the best and triumph in all of her glory. The Icons of the Past will stand true in the present and we will never fail. Countries will always look to us for assistance and we will always be there to lend a hand because in all in all of her glory and fame American will never let them down. Our power and wisdom we will dominate anything that comes in our path. We will always be able to count on the on the red, white, and blue to symbolize the greatness of a nation of winners, and to inspire future Americans to excel to the top.

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