Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima
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The Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 was one of the deadliest battles of the War in the Pacific. Whilst only a small island, it held great significance to both sides. For the United States, it offered a position to advance an aerial campaign towards Tokyo. For the Japanese, Iwo Jima had a symbolic meaning, as it was the first Japanese national soil to face foreign invasion.
Four days into the battle, Joe Rosenthal, a photographer from the Associated Press, captured one of the most iconic photographs of the Second World War. The photograph depicted six soldiers raising a U.S flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.
If we examine the photograph â€“ it can help us to comprehend the experiences of those involved. It shows unity among the American forces and the value of teamwork. Even the last man, who can no longer reach the flagpole, is supporting his comrade.
The image itself went viral as it was published on the front pages of newspapers across America. It began a wave of national optimism that peace was near and as a war-bond poster, raised money for the military. The photograph was very popular, but how did the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima effect those who actually witnessed it?
Adam Matthewâ€™s newest resource, America in World War Two: Oral Histories and Personal Accounts, enables researchers to examine specific events through direct, personal testimonies.
William Kaenzig served in the United States Marine Corps with the 4th Marine Division and took part in the battles of Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima. William landed on Iwo Jima on the first day and remembered the beach being â€ścovered in bodiesâ€ť as he describes a situation of panic and fear;
â€śI'm going along shaking guys, saying, come on, come on, get off the beach. And about the fourth or fifth one, I knew they were dead, that those that wanted to get off were off. And I got my guys, my radio operators and telephone people, and I said, let's get out of here.â€ť
Soon after moving off the beach, William and his men reached Suribachi. Witnessing an American flag being raised after experiencing the dangers of an amphibious landing must have been an emotional experience for the Marines. As William recalled;
â€śA lot of them started to cry because it was an emotional moment, that we're finally got that part and there's the good old American flag.â€ť