Interesting Facts about Iwo Jima and the Famous Flag Photo

Interesting Facts about Iwo Jima and the Famous Flag Photo

The famous battle, given the official name of Operation Detachment, is considered to be perhaps the bloodiest battle ever engaged by the U.S. Marines. During World War II, the U.S. invaded the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, a stronghold that could help turn the war in our favor. There were over 21,000 Japanese troops on the island at the time the invasion started. Nearly all were killed except for a few hundred. The U.S. lost close to 7,000 Marines during the same time. It was a devastating loss of life for both sides. Warriors today still wear patriotic merchandise that reminds them of this pivotal event, even if it was shrouded in controversy. 

Even now, historians actually question why this battle needed to happen in the first place. After the war, the military attempted to justify the operation, saying we needed the island to help our pilots by providing them an emergency landing strip. It was later found that the airstrip was rarely used for any emergency landings. There was no real need to kill tens of thousands of people and lose thousands of our own troops. Still, this doesn’t diminish the courage and bravery of our Marines.

Two Flags Raised

Contrary to popular belief, there was more than one flag raised on Iwo Jima. Pictures were taken both times, but only one of them went “viral”, which is more of a modern term, but suits what happened at the time as well. On February 23rd, flags were raised on Mt. Suribachi. The first was a smaller flag and a picture was taken for Leatherneck magazine, but it was deemed too small. A little later, a second, much larger flag was raised by Marines.

But it wasn’t either of those pictures that wrote the rest of the history of the event. It was a picture by Joe Rosenthal, an AP photographer, who gave Americans hope during a brutal war. It was his picture that made the headlines. CNN’s Thom Patterson wrote about it this way: “The image was so inspiring that, by 1945 standards, it went viral. It triggered a wave of national hope that Japanese forces would soon be crushed and peace was near. It spurred millions of Americans to buy war bonds to keep the nation on solid financial footing. Basically, this simple photo was so powerful it helped win World War II.”

It's difficult to imagine how a single photograph can change the tide of the war. It’s not like the U.S. would’ve lost without it, but it sparked a new wave of American patriotism. We had a better idea of the price our troops were paying, planting flags and spreading freedom. It wasn’t long after this event we were putting our flag on the moon. As we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of this event, be sure to check out your favorite patriotic merchandise by visiting

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