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 on 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 sensationThe image earned 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, a persistent misconception is that the event was staged and 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 U.S. forces hopped islands toward Japan. Each flag raising represented an important victory that brought the war closer to an end. Each one also came after tremendous sacrifice. The following images celebrate 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

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


With the trunk of a palm tree serving as a flagpole, U.S. Marines prepare to raise the Stars and Stripes over Tarawa Atoll’s Betio Island on 24 November 1943. The Corps suffered 3,110 casualties wresting control of the heavily defended island from the Japanese.


OFR Kwajalein

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


Vice Admiral Harry Hill raises the flag on Eniwetok, February 1944. The Japanese on the atoll were without support after U.S. forces destroyed 39 of their warships during Operation Hailstorm.


OFR - Chalan Kanoa Saipan July 1944

Saipan, 10 July 1944. The capture of the largest island in the Northern Marianas put mainland Japan within range of B-29 bombers.


OFR Guam boathook

Planting the flag with a boat hook minutes after landing on Guam, 21 July 1944.

OFR Guam first official

Later in July, this official first official raising of the U.S. flag took place on Guam, where fighting would continue until 10 August.


OFR Tinian

Tinian, July 1944. A year later, the B-29 Enola Gay would take off from the Mariana island and drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima


OFR Peleliu

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


OFR Angaur

Angaur, Palau Islands, September 1944. As with several other 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 his 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, 23 February 1945. The famous photo by Rosenthal was of the second, larger 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 mainland Japan naval base.



OFR Wake 2

The Japanese surrender on Wake Island, 4 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 reportedly was 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


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