View Full Version : Camera made here brought war effort home

08-28-06, 06:42 AM
August 28, 2006
Camera made here brought war effort home

It didn't take long last week for the death of Joe Rosenthal to resonate in Rochester.

Rosenthal was the Associated Press cameraman who photographed the Marines raising an American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima during World War II. It may be the "most widely reproduced photo in American history," according to The New York Times.

Rosenthal took the picture with a made-in-Rochester Speed Graphic camera — the workhorse press camera of that era, made by the Folmer-Graflex company. The camera Rosenthal used on Feb. 23, 1945, is now part of the George Eastman House collection and has been on display there. Last Monday, however, after Rosenthal's death at age 94, it was put on special exhibit near the museum's entrance.

Rochester's connections to Rosenthal's photograph do not end with the camera he used to take it.

The value of Rosenthal's powerful image to the war effort back home was instantly recognized. Even as the fighting continued to rage in the Pacific, Rosenthal's photograph became the centerpiece of the nation's seventh war loan drive.

Stecher-Traung Lithograph Corp. on North Goodman Street, which had been cranking out millions of top-secret, coded bomb charts and artillery maps, used the photograph on more than 2 million posters it produced for the Treasury Department to promote the war loan drive. The posters were distributed in war factories and other workplaces and public areas across the country.

And what of the men who raised the flag in the first place?

Three of them did not survive the fighting on Iwo Jima. The three who did — Pfc. Ira Hayes of Bapchule, Ariz.; Pfc. Rene Gagnon of Manchester, N.H.; and Navy Pharmacist's Mate John Bradley of ******on, Wis. — were sent back to the states to travel from city to city, promoting the war bond drive. They arrived in Rochester on May 16, 1945.

"They give you the impression that they feel a bit guilty about their jobs as bond salesmen, ... sleeping in soft beds, eating the best of foods ... and telling people why they should buy War Bonds" while their comrades continued to fight in the Pacific, the Rochester Times-Union noted.

Nonetheless, their impending arrival was ballyhooed in newspaper stories. They did a whirlwind tour of local war plants — visiting Bausch and Lomb, for example, where they were given sunglasses, and Kodak, where they lunched on steak. And then it was off to another steak dinner, this one at the Chamber of Commerce. Given the rationing then in effect, "officials admitted they had to hustle around to find four steaks in the city. Others at the dinner ate ham and liked it."

The public reaction to all of this, however, appears to have been rather muted. The grand kickoff for the fund drive was a parade, with the three Iwo Jima heroes in an open convertible bringing up the rear.

As the cavalcade made its way from East Avenue and Goodman Street toward Main Street, long stretches of sidewalk were deserted. It was almost as if Rochester were an "evacuated city," one reporter noted.

Maybe it was the rain and unseasonable cold that kept the number of spectators down. There certainly did not appear to be any lack of enthusiasm for yet another war bond drive. By mid-June, Monroe County had exceeded its $25.5 million goal by more than $400,000.

Perhaps Rosenthal's stirring photograph of six soldiers raising that flag on Iwo Jima had something to do with it. One thing is certain: Six decades later, an image captured with a Rochester camera still resonates, not just in our city but in the national psyche.


08-28-06, 06:27 PM
The Power of Pictures in a Time of War
By Jim Lo Scalzo
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2006

The death last week of Joe Rosenthal, the Associated Press photographer who made perhaps the most famous photograph of World War II-that of five marines and one Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Iwo Jima-has reignited the wrong debate. For years, rumors have swirled that the image was staged, something no obituary fails to mention. Servicemen had, in fact, flown a flag hours before Rosenthal's arrival. But they soon thought the flag was too small, and Rosenthal was in position to capture the servicemen raising a larger replacement.

Whether that undermines the authenticity of Rosenthal's magnum opus is beside the point. What matters more is why we have elevated this image, staged or not, to iconic status. Equally important pictures emerged from World War II: those of Holocaust victims stacked like logs or those of an obliterated Cologne or Dresden. Yet Rosenthal's photograph is the one we remember. Not because it was the most affecting but because it marked a victory in a cause everyone agreed was just. That's not a sentiment the nation would carry through subsequent wars. Indeed, the imagery we remember follows suit: in Vietnam, a naked, and recently napalmed, 9-year-old girl, her mouth wide, her arms outstretched, her skin scorched; in Somalia, a hog-tied American soldier being dragged through the dirt.

In Iraq, there was a Rosenthal moment, when an American tank in Firdos Square yanked a Saddam statue from its concrete pedestal. Yet the image was soon displaced by darker, more ambiguous ones: Americans torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib, a mob of Iraqis shooting, burning, lynching four American security workers. Even in Lebanon, the images that stick in the national psyche are not those of Israeli soldiers defending their nation but rather those of lifeless Lebanese children, their bodies being pulled from the rubble.

Rosenthal's image, for all its patriotic grandeur, is a product of the past-a time when wars could be seen, as with Rosenthal's photo, in black and white.


08-29-06, 03:24 PM
September 04, 2006
An immortal moment
Iwo Jima image, spirit lives on despite photographer’s death

By Josh Gibbs

When Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal climbed atop Mount Suribachi as Marines struggled to take the tiny Pacific island of Iwo Jima in 1945, he captured what many consider the greatest photograph of all time. As then-Navy Secretary James Forrestal proclaimed, the “flag-raising on Iwo Jima means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.”

When I learned of Rosenthal’s death, I — like every Marine I know — was brought back to the day I learned about Iwo Jima. I have fond memories of re-enacting the flag-raising in my squad bay at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.

We piled the contents of our footlockers into the middle of the floor to create our own Mount Suribachi and used our guidon for the American flag. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were re-creating one of the most pivotal and iconic moments in Marine Corps history.

Rosenthal received the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for his image of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi to signify its capture. Officially titled “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima,” it is the only photograph to win the award in the same year it was taken.

During the Seventh War Bond Drive in 1945, the photograph was reproduced on 3.5 million posters and helped raise more than $20 billion over six weeks. That same year, it appeared on a postage stamp, despite the Postal Service’s policy of not featuring living people on stamps.

The image has graced the covers of countless magazines and newspapers and, most important for Marines, it served as the model for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. This amazing bronze creation stands as a symbol of Marines who have given their lives in defense of their country since 1775.

As Marines, we remember the Battle of Iwo Jima for two reasons. One is that it was the costliest battle in Marine Corps history. The 6,821 Americans killed — including 5,931 Marines — accounted for almost one-third of Marine losses during World War II.

The other is Rosenthal’s photo. His stirring image has become synonymous with Marines worldwide. With a click of his shutter, he captured not just a pivotal moment in American history, but the feeling of a nation.

The flag-raising on Iwo Jima showed the world that we could do what had previously been thought impossible. Rosenthal’s photograph stands as a testament to tenacity and determination.

The volcanic island of Iwo Jima was heavily fortified by the Japanese, and the invading Allied forces suffered appalling casualties. In fact, this was the only invasion of the American offensive in the Pacific in which the Americans suffered higher casualties than the Japanese.

The island is dominated by Mount Suribachi, a 546-foot dormant volcano. From the top, the Japanese could accurately rain artillery onto the Americans — especially those on the landing beaches. Iwo Jima was of strategic importance to the U.S. because it would provide a landing and refueling site for bombers on missions to Japan.

Iwo Jima would be the first piece of Japanese soil the U.S. would take, so it was a matter of honor for the Japanese to prevent its capture at all costs.

Marines had been battling for the high ground of Mount Suribachi since their initial landing Feb. 19, 1945. After suffering terrible losses on the black sand below, the Allies appeared to be taking the island. As Marines remember from boot camp, this was the battle about which Adm. Chester Nimitz was quoted as saying, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Staff Sgt. Lou Lowery photographed the first flag-raising atop Mount Suribachi in the late morning of Feb. 23. Later that day, it was ordered that a second and larger flag be raised.

Upon landing on the island, Rosenthal hurried toward Mount Suribachi, trying to find the Marines who had raised the first flag in hopes he could get a group picture of them beside it before it was taken down. When he was unable to locate them, he turned his attention to a group of Marines preparing to raise the second flag.

In a 1955 article for Collier’s magazine, Rosenthal wrote, “Out of the corner of my eye, as I had turned toward [Marine photographer Sgt. Bill] Genaust, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera and shot the scene. That is how the picture was taken, and when you take a picture like that, you don’t come away saying you got a great shot. You don’t know.”

Rosenthal’s photograph displays the stirring and unstoppable energy of six men straining toward a common goal. It has become a visual metaphor for overcoming adversity in the face of insurmountable odds.

Americans responded to it because it was an image of victory they so badly craved. In a war that America had been involved in for almost four years, we needed the assurance that we were winning. Rosenthal’s image gave us that feeling and served to strengthen our support.

Rosenthal was 94 years old when he died, but his photograph became immortal in just 1/400th of a second.

The writer is a captain with the 8th Marine Corps District in Arlington, Texas.