Joseph John Rosenthal was born in Washington. His parents were immigrants from Russia. He had a strong interest in photography and after finishing college joined the Newspaper Enterprise Association in San Francisco before becoming a staff photographer with the San Francisco Examiner.
On the outbreak of the Second World War Rosenthal applied to join the US Army as a military photographer. Rejected because of his poor eyesight, Rosenthal was eventually sent to cover the Pacific War by the Associated Press. In March 1944 he photographed the American progress toward Japan, including the invasions of Guam, New Guinea and Guadalcanal.
Rosenthal was at Iwo Jima and took some very dramatic pictures of the invasion. On February 23, 1945, while on the top of Mount Suribachi, Rosenthal took one of the most famous photographs of the war: Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima. Of the six soldiers, three were killed within the next few days.
The Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima, was published throughout the world. Rosenthal was later accused of staging the photograph. In fact, this was untrue. “On February 23, having captured Surabachi, a small volcanic hill and the highest point on the island, some marines raised a small flag at its summit. They were photographed by Sergeant Louis Lowery for the marine magazine, Leatherneck. Rosenthal, having talked with Lowery, decided to get a shot of the flag himself. When he arrived, he found the marines raising a larger flag, attached to a pole so heavy it took six men to lever it into place in a small mound of rocks. He stepped just inside the volcano’s crater and snapped the photo with his Speed Graphic.”
After the war Rosenthal became chief photographer and manager of Times Wide World Photos. Later he worked for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Image courtesy of Doug Mills/Associated Press