WW2 combat photographer Joe Rosenthal has died

America's most celebrated World War Two combat photographer has died.

Joe Rosenthal, who took the memorable picture of American GIs raising the Stars and Stripes over the island of Iwo Jima in 1945, was 94.

He was 33 years old, working for the Associated Press, when he landed with the Marines on Iwo Jima, a remote island in the Pacific. He took the picture of five weary-looking Marines and a Navy sailor struggling to raise the American flag on top of Mount Suribachi.

It was the fifth day of the furious month-long battle that left almost 7,000 Americans dead and 19,000 wounded. All but a thousand of the island’s 22,000 Japanese defenders also died.

Actually the picture Rosenthal took was of a second flag raising. He missed the first flag raising a few hours earlier but when he climbed the mountain he found the Marines were raising a second, larger flag that could be seen all over the island.

It was that black and white picture, taken at noon at 1/400th of a second, that became world famous – and won Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize. It was rated one of the 100 most famous pictures ever taken. It was described by the Pulitzer Committee as "a frozen flash of history"

Rosenthal went on to take pictures of General MacArthur's army fighting in the jungles of New Guinea, he cruised the Pacific with the US Navy and hit the beaches with the Marines landing in Guam and several other Pacific islands.

Rosenthal made little money from his famous picture. He received a $4,200 bonus in war bonds from AP, a $1,000 photographic award from a camera magazine and about $700 for a couple of radio appearances.

Altogether he probably made less than $10,000 from his picture. Even though it was often reproduced on calendars, posters, countless newspapers and even for a time on US postage stamps. It was also the model for the huge 110 ft tall bronze Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.

After the war, Rosenthal left AP and joined the San Francisco Chronicle for whom he worked for 35 years. He was twice president of the San Francisco Press Club and three times president of the local Press Photographers' Association.

In his home he kept on a wall a framed certificated declaring him an honourary US Marine. It was, he claimed. his proudest possession.

Picture: the US Marine Corps memorial in Washington which was based on Rosenthal's picture (Reuters).

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