On Feb. 23, 1945, a 33-year-old Associated Press photographer who had been rejected from the Army because of poor eyesight took a photograph that would ultimately become one of the most recognizable and reproduced images in history. The photographer was Joe Rosenthal; his image depicted five Marines and a Navy corpsman hoisting an American flag atop Mt. Suribachi on the fifth day of the Battle of Iwo Jima.
On Sunday, Feb. 25, two days after Rosenthal had pressed the shutter on his 4 x 5 Speed Graphic camera, the photograph made the front page of several major newspapers. Its impact was immediate. Three of the surviving men in the photo were summoned home and hailed as heroes. The image was made into a postage stamp and was chosen as the symbol of a war bond drive. After the war, it was turned into a bronze statue at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, was the subject of several books and television documentaries and featured in films.
In this 1998 interview from the AP Corporate Archives, Rosenthal describes the sequence of events that led to his photograph. (Rosenthal is being interviewed by Hal Buell, a longtime photo director who spent more than 40 years with AP.)