Feb 23

The ‘Other’ Flag-Raising Photos from the War in the Pacific

Saturday, February 23, 2019 6:10 AM


When photographer Joe Rosenthal pointed his camera at a group of men atop of Mount Suribachi and quickly snapped a shot, he did not think he captured anything special. It was not until the film was developed at a lab in Guam that a photo editor noted that the image was “one for all time.” Within a day of the photo being taken, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima was distributed over the wire to hundreds of newspapers and became an immediate sensation. The image won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography and has become one of the most reproduced and parodied images in history but not without its share of controversy. With a composition resembling a Renaissance painting, the photo was deemed as too perfect by some observers who believed it must have been posed. Even today there is a persistent misconception the event was staged and that the men were meticulously positioned by Rosenthal.

OFR Iwo Jima

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, 23 February 1945

The dramatic circumstances, visual power and historic context of that one image has understandably overshadowed the other U.S. flag raisings that took place across the Pacific as American forces hopped islands towards Japan. Each flag raising represented an important victory that brought the war closer to an end. Each flag raising also came after tremendous sacrifice. These are photos of many of those “other” flag raisings.


OFR Guadalcanal

Raising the flag during the first few days of the Battle of Guadalcanal, August 1942


OFR Kiska

The U.S. flag flies over Kiska in the Aleutian Islands after 14 month of Japanese occupation, August 1943


Tarawa, November 1943. The Marines suffered heavy losses due to obstacles stopping their landing craft, leading to the creation of Underwater Demolition Teams


OFR Kwajalein

Kwajalein, February 1944. The U.S. suffered relatively light casualties compared to the 8,000 Japanese defenders who were almost completely wiped out


VADM Harry Hill raises the flag on Eniwetok, February 1944. The Japanese on the island were without support after the U.S. destroyed 39 warships during Operation Hailstorm


OFR - Chalan Kanoa Saipan July 1944

Saipan, July 1944. The capture of Saipan put mainland Japan within range of B-29 bombers


OFR Guam boathook

Planting the flag with a boat hook minutes after landing on Guam, July 1944

OFR Guam first official

Guam, July 1944. Ceremonies at the first official raising of the American flag during the Liberation of Guam


OFR Tinian

Tinian, July 1944. A year later, the Enola Gay would take off from Tinain and drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima


OFR Peleliu

Peleliu, September 1944. The U.S. faced bitter resistance while taking Peleliu and suffered the highest casualty rate of all amphibious operations in the Pacific.


OFR Angaur

Angaur, September 1944. As with several battles in the Pacific, historians question whether the cost in lives was worth taking an island of little strategic value


OFR Leyte

Leyte, October 1944. General Douglas MacArthur kept he promise to the people of the Philippines and returned after being driven out by the Japanese in 1942


OFR First Iwo Jima Flag

The first flag raised on Iwo Jima, February 1945. The famous photo by Rosenthal was of the second flag raised


OFR Okinawa 2

Richard P. Ross of the 1st Marines braves sniper fire to place the division’s colors on a parapet of Shuri Castle on Okinawa, 29 May 1945


OFR Yokosuka 2

Raising the U.S. flag at Yokosuka, 30 August 1945, after U.S. Marines and sailors took over the facility



OFR Wake 2

The Japanese surrender on Wake Island, September 1945. The commander of Japanese forces on the island would be executed for war crimes involving the massacre of American PoWs.


OFR Wotje Atoll, Marshall Islands, Sep 1945

Wotje Atoll in the Marshall Islands, September 1945. At the time of the surrender, less the half of the Japanese garrison was still alive after being battered by the U.S. Navy throughout the war


OFR - Tokyo Sep 1945

The first U.S. flag to fly over Tokyo, 3 September 1945. General MacArthur was reportedly livid because he was supposed to have the honor of raising the first flag at an official ceremony


OFR Korea 9 9 1945

Seoul, Korea, 9 September 1945. Raising the U.S. flag following the surrender of Japanese forces in Southern Korea