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By admin | September 26th, 2017

WWII Marines’ petition to be delivered October 9th.

Petition spearheaded by the Joe Rosenthal Chapter

Petition spearheaded by the Joe Rosenthal Chapter

What began as a pipe dream for a handful of veterans has become the goal of 1,000s of people nationwide: Name a US Navy warship for the late Joe Rosenthal (1911-2006), the San Francisco photographer who took the iconic Iwo Jima flag raising photo.

The photo is believed to be the most recognized and reproduced in history, and has become a symbol of the United States Marine Corps. Six Marines raised the flag on February 23, 1945, in the midst of the bloody battle on Iwo Jima, a small volcanic island in the Pacific, the first land battle of WWII on Japanese soil. It raised the spirits of the American public, and raised $26.3 billion for the war effort as the symbol of the Seventh War Loan Drive.

Marine Corps veteran Dale Cook, president of the Joe Rosenthal Chapter of the USMC Combat Correspondents Association, a group of retired and active duty Marine journalists, knew Rosenthal well. “He was a member of our chapter and president of the Press Club. We renamed our chapter after him. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his Iwo photo, but the thing he was most proud of was the certificate that said he was an Honorary Marine,” said Cook who was an 18-year-old Marine in the battle, and became one of the more than 25,000 American casualties.

On October 9, 2017, (Rosenthal’s birthday), Cook’s group will deliver their petition with over 2,000 signatures and a letter requesting a future USS Joe Rosenthal to Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, who is responsible for naming ships.

Rosenthal, who climbed Mt. Suribachi, the highest point on the island, with the Marines who raised the second flag that day, has largely been forgotten over the 72 years since he and his camera captured a piece of history. Although his photojournalism career continued for 35 years after the war, he would always be known as the man who took “the picture,” as he called it. And it is not much of an exaggeration that his every conversation began with a question about it.

While “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” made him famous in 1945, it was not even his favorite among the 60-some photographs he took on the island. When asked about it, he would point to a framed 8×10 of one Marine on the beach running past the body of a second, lying in the sand: “The Quick and the Dead,” he called it.

Rosenthal’s war photos live on in books and documentaries about Iwo Jima and WWII, but his name is only remembered by Marines, history buffs, and aging San Franciscans who saw his photos for decades on the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

The Secretary of the Navy chooses ships’ names, more or less following conventions based on the class of ship. (During WWII, battleships were named for states, cruisers for cities and submarines for fish.) The Navy’s ship naming procedure has long been anchored in tradition, but the Secretary also enjoys a certain amount of freedom in his naming choices. For instance, no ship had ever been named for a living president until the USS Ronald Reagan was christened in 2001.

Dale Cook’s Combat Correspondents — retired servicemen and their wives — have worked for a year gathering support for the USS Joe Rosenthal effort, collecting over 2,000 petition signatures. (Cook, himself, gathered nearly 200 and cited universal enthusiasm among the signers. “Only one person I asked said no.”) In February, the Alameda County (Calif.) Board of Supervisors passed a Resolution in support of the ship naming.

The Joe Rosenthal Chapter once boasted several Iwo Jima veterans in its ranks, Marines, a Naval officer and a B-29 pilot. Now it is just Cook and one other, Marine veteran Floyd Hunter, who also saw the flag flying above the island.

“I just hope we get the ship named before I die,” 93-year-old Hunter said.


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