The National Museum of the Marine Corps is sharing one of America’s most famous symbols of resolve in a rare display to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The American flags raised by Marines on Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, are on display together at the museum through March 30. The flags are normally rotated and displayed individually to reduce exposure to harmful light.
The raising of the second flag was captured in a photograph by Joe Rosenthal that appeared on the front pages of U.S. newspapers the next day. It has become one of the most reproduced images of all time – appearing on a postage stamp, in a cornfield and even a butter sculpture in a chow hall in Iraq.
Some people don’t realize that it was actually the second flag raised. Its large size was more visible to ships at sea than the smaller flag it replaced.
The flag was obtained by Lt. (j.g.) Alan S. Wood, USNR, at a salvage depot at Pearl Harbor just before leaving for the Iwo Jima mission. In a July 7, 1945, letter to Brig. Gen. Robert Denig, USMC, Wood said he found the flag in a duffel bag with some signal flags, believing it came from an old decommissioned ship.
“It was neatly folded and looked brand new,” Wood wrote (Read his letter, and see original shipping documents sending the flag to the museum, here). “I wish I could tell you where it came from before I got hold of it as it would, no doubt, be of interest to trace it back to its origin. However at the time I naturally had no way of knowing that this fact would ever be of any interest to anyone, and so that is about all I can tell you about it.”