Joe Rosenthal shot the iconic Iwo Jima photograph that shows the Marines raising the second flag on that blood-soaked island. As Rosenthal made clear, this was not a posed photograph; it was not false propaganda:
Ten years after the flag-raising, Rosenthal wrote that he almost didn’t go up to the summit when he learned a flag had already been raised. He decided to go up anyway, and found servicemen preparing to plant the second, larger flag.
“Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera and shot the scene. That is how the picture was taken, and when you take a picture like that, you don’t come away saying you got a great shot. You don’t know.”
“Millions of Americans saw this picture five or six days before I did, and when I first heard about it, I had no idea what picture was meant.”
He recalled that days later, when a colleague congratulated him on the picture, he thought he meant another, posed shot he had taken later that day, of Marines waving and cheering at the base of the flag.
He added that if he had posed the flag-raising picture, as some skeptics have suggested over the years, “I would, of course, have ruined it” by choosing fewer men and making sure their faces could be seen.
Joe Rosenthal died this weekend. Unbeknownst to be, he was living in my neck of the woods when he died. life. It’s totally silly and illogical way, but that fact makes me feel just a little bit proud. It’s my own “six degrees of separation” with someone who preserved a moment of extraordinary heroism and patriotism.
By the way, I was wondering where to slot in a quotation from Michael Barone’s column today about America’s often well-intentioned Fifth Column, which doesn’t mean to destroy us, but that pursues ideas and policies that will have that effect anyway. I got stuck on the part of the article that talks about history, real, imagined, and falsely created:
Our covert enemies go quickly from the notion that all societies are morally equal to the notion that all societies are morally equal except ours, which is worse.
These are the ideas that have been transmitted over a long generation by the elites who run our universities and our schools, and who dominate our mainstream media. They teach an American history with the good parts left out and the bad parts emphasized. We are taught that some of the Founding Fathers were slaveholders — and are left ignorant of their proclamations of universal liberties and human rights. We are taught that Japanese-Americans were interned in World War II — and not that American military forces liberated millions from tyranny. To be sure, the great mass of Americans tend to resist these teachings. By the millions they buy and read serious biographies of the Founders and accounts of the Greatest Generation. But the teachings of our covert enemies have their effect.
Of course, this distorts history. We are taught that American slavery was the most evil institution in human history. But every society in history has had slavery. Only one society set out to and did abolish it. The movement to abolish first the slave trade and then slavery was not started by the reason-guided philosophies of 18th century France. It was started, as Adam Hochschild documents in his admirable book “Bury the Chains,” by Quakers and Evangelical Christians in Britain, followed in time by similar men and women in America. The slave trade was ended not by Africans, but by the Royal Navy, with aid from the U.S. Navy even before the Civil War.
Nevertheless, the default assumption of our covert enemies is that in any conflict between the West and the Rest, the West is wrong. That assumption can be rebutted by overwhelming fact: Few argued for the Taliban after Sept. 11. But in our continuing struggles, our covert enemies portray our work in Iraq through the lens of Abu Ghraib and consider Israel’s self-defense against Hezbollah as the oppression of virtuous victims by evil men. In World War II, our elites understood that we were the forces of good and that victory was essential. Today, many of our elites subject our military and intelligence actions to fine-tooth-comb analysis and find that they are morally repugnant.