Clearing up the picture

I was disappointed to see PRWeek perpetuate the myth that the flag raising on Iwo Jima was staged (PRWeek, August 28).

I was disappointed to see PRWeek perpetuate the myth that the flag raising on Iwo Jima was staged (PRWeek, August 28).

I knew Joe Rosenthal when he was president of the San Francisco Press Club, and I served on the board of directors during the mid-70s. He shared with me how he'd been hounded for years about the myth that the photo somehow had been "staged" and had spent a great deal of time debunking it.

The story is this: Yes, an earlier, small "personal" flag had been hastily put up on Mount Suribachi, but was deemed too small to be seen from any distance. It was then decided to erect a much larger flag, hoping it would greatly boost the morale of the men on the ships and beaches who were still taking a pounding. No one at the time considered this a great PR moment for the press. In fact, it was almost an afterthought that Joe and a motion picture unit cameraman tagged along.

On the summit, the larger flag was attached to some galvanized pipe, and several men were asked to hoist it into place. Joe happened to be standing next to the cameraman who captured the same image on movie film. The cameraman yelled, "There it goes!" and Joe just had time to put his 4x5 Speed Graphic to his eye and snap the picture. It was all one fluid movement, and the movie camera footage proved it.

The only staging was Joe asking the men to have their photo taken standing under the risen flag. At the time, Joe turned over his negatives for processing to one of the ships in the harbor and never saw what he'd taken. In fact, for the first few days after the picture was released to the press, Joe thought the group shot under the risen flag was the image everyone was crowing about.

When asked if it was "staged," Joe mistakenly answered yes, thinking they were referring to the group shot. It was only after he saw what is now considered the famous one that he realized what they were truly referring to, and he quickly attempted to correct his error of saying that somehow the shot was rigged.

There was nothing staged about the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo Joe took on Mount Suribachi - nor was the original flag replaced for publicity purposes. I hope PRWeek confirms with the AP what I've shared (it still has the original negative) and posts a correction (which we did last week). Joe and the five flag raisers (two of whom later died on Iwo) deserve the facts to be right on this one.

Incidentally, a copy of that picture now adorns my home office wall, complete with a personal message and signature from Joe. Thanks for letting me set the record straight.

John Jensen
Federal Way, WA


In the September 4 feature, APCO Worldwide SVP Evan Kraus was referred to as Eric. In the next issue's Expert Advice column, the first name of Chandler Chicco Agency's Marc Heft was incorrectly spelled Mark. We regret the errors.

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