By Debbie Gregory.
In 1945, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was in the right place at the right time. Although you may not be familiar with his name, you most certainly would recognize his most famous work: a group of United States Marines cresting Mount Suribachi to plant their nation’s colors on Iwo Jima, as Old Glory snaps in the breeze.
Rosenthal won the Pulitzer Prize for the acclaimed image. The Pulitzer Committee in 1945 described the photo as “depicting one of the war’s great moments,” a “frozen flash of history.”
The photojournalist was rejected by the U.S. Army due to poor eye sight, so he volunteered for frontline action in the Pacific theater, and covered the fighting on Guam, Peleliu, and Angaur.
Now, a group of current and former Marines want to honor Rosenthal by having the Navy ship named after him.
The US Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association submitted a petition to the office of the secretary of the Navy to accomplish that goal.
Although the odds are against the request, theirs is nothing that prevents the Navy naming a U.S. vessel after someone who didn’t serve in the military.
In later years, when asked about the photo, he would say “I took the picture, the Marines took Iwo Jima.”
On August 20, 2006, at age 94, Rosenthal died of natural causes in his sleep.
Rosenthal’s story and the stories of the flag raisers on Mount Suribachi was told in the film Flags of Our Fathers (2006), directed by Clint Eastwood.
“There are awards and there are plaques and there are speeches, but this whole idea of the ship is so appealing, because a ship is like a living thing,” said Anne Rosenthal, the late photographer’s daughter. “It has people who spend their lives on it, or parts of their lives on it.”