The news photographer Joe Rosenthal, famous for his iconic image of US troops raising the American flag on Iwo Jima during the bloody Second World War battle for the Japanese island, has died at age 94, the San Francisco Chronicle has confirmed.
Rosenthal died on Sunday morning at an assisted living center in Novato, California, the Chronicle said. Rosenthal worked for the daily newspaper for 35 years until his retirement in 1981.
Rosenthal joined the Chronicle in 1946 after working for the Associated Press during the Second World War. His black-and-white photograph of five Marines and a Navy Corpsman raising the flag on Mount Suribachi earned him the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for photography. "The reason it became so iconic was that, at the time, it really represented the country's unity," said Willis Hartshorn, director of the International Center of Photography, in New York.
The Chronicle said Rosenthal failed to take a photo of the initial flag-raising by a few hours, finding a small US flag on top of Mount Suribachi when he and a squad of Marines reached the 546-foot summit. But then he spotted the Marines and the corpsman raising a larger flag that could be seen from everywhere on the volcanic island. His picture of that event won him the Pulitzer and served as the model for the Marine Corps Memorial outside Washington.
Nearly 7,000 US soldiers died and some 20,000 were wounded in the 36-day battle between February and March 1945. .Of the 22,000 Japanese troops on Iwo Jima, only 1,083 survived.
The Chronicle said Rosenthal never earned much money from the photo. The AP gave him $4,200 in war bonds, and he won a $1,000 prize from a camera magazine. Rosenthal estimated he made less than $10,000 from the picture, the paper said.