The History of World-Known 'Raising the Flag' Image

The photograph depicting four American soldiers atempting to raise a giant American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the bitter World War II battle that held place on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima has become arguably one of the most famous images in US history. The historical picture has been featured on everything from posters to stamps. Photographer Joel Rosenthal took a photograph, which is appropriately titled Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, on February 23, 1945. The picture came to fame and ultimately became synonymous with the American means of unity, pride, and bravery. Unbeknownst to many, Rosenthal’s renowned photograph was the second flag-raising picture captured on mount Suribachi on that February day in 1945. The first flag-raising picture was a considerably less appealing image because the flag in the shot is rather small, the flag was already erect, and the picture features more armed soldiers than does the second image. This photographic piece of propaganda is remarkably effective because it promotes the American ideals of unity, pride, and bravery through the use of various visual techniques.

Rosenthal used lines, color, and structure to further convey his theme in the picture. The American flag forms the most notable lines captured in the image. The long diagonal pole is needed to show movement. The marines are raising the flag that was previously down, indicating victory and triumph over the Japanese. The raising of the American flag is seen as a victory, just as lowering the American flag is perceived as defeat. The vertical lines portrayed by the stature of the marines help us acknowledge that they are raising the flag rather than lowering it. The vertical lines formed by the four marines raising the flag towards the top of the pole indicate the strength of the marine. Had they been pictured slouching over, they would have looked defeated by the battle that they fought. However, they look as though the battle did not take a toll on them, and they make our country appear mighty. Horizontal lines are formed in the background of the picture by the landscape, adding a more calm and serene look to the image. Although it is during a war and after a very hard-fought battle, the picture still looks peaceful and supports that the battle is over. Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima was captured in black and white with several different values on the grayscale. Black and white fit the picture very well because black is a color associated with mourning, and this was absolutely a time of grief for Americans after losing nearly 6,000 marines. Gray is also associated with sorrow, and although it is a significant time for Americans, war is still not a happy time. Gray is also a symbol of security, which, after winning a battle, America should feel safe and secure.

In conclusion, the image of rising the American flag utilizes the rhetorical proof of pathos to associate the image with the American values of unity, pride, and bravery and to arouse these feelings within all that view the image. The picture promotes the notion of unity by showing the soldiers working in conjunction to raise their beloved American flag. All of the soldiers in the second picture working towards a common goal promotes unity. The image also encourages the notion of pride because the soldiers are raising an American flag, which red stripes of which may come to represent their spilled blood at any time, which offers a lead way into the notion of bravery. The picture promotes bravery because even in the midst of intense battle, these valiant soldiers are defending and promoting their country and the interests thereof Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (my great-great uncle) who attested to the bravery of soldiers like the ones featured in Rosenthal’s image by stating that “among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue”.

07 July 2022
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