Joe Rosenthal and the Cameramen of the Signal Corp

Cover from the May 1945, U.S. Camera Magazine

Cover from the May 1945, U.S. Camera Magazine, volume 9, Number 4. (Dr. Blansett’s private collection)

The following link includes a digital copy of the U.S. Camera 1945 article

U.S. Camera first began publishing in 1938 and throughout the war covered how this technology revolutionized the war. Throughout the war, many Americans had a front row seat at their local movie house to watch newsreels before the feature film or to thumb through their subscription or 15 cent purchase of U.S. Camera. The most iconic image of the war was captured by Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, who on February 23, 1945 at the Battle of Iwo Jima captured an image of the flag-raising atop of Mount Suribachi. An image so powerful that it became immortalized in a bronze sculpture for the Marine Corp Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. The photo and ultimately the image itself became a symbol commemorating the sacrifice and patriotism of thousands of Marines who served their country in a time of crisis. While the photo created a lasting symbol and won Rosenthal a coveted Pulitzer Prize, controversy and debate still surrounds the iconic photograph, as the following article from Matthew Hansen’s November 23, 2014 column in the Omaha World Herald illustrates:

The 1945 U.S. Camera article also contains an interview with Joe Rosenthal on page 57 in which he stated, “I followed up this shot with another of a group of cheering Marines and then I tried to find four men I heard were the actual instigators of the grand adventure. But they had scattered to their units and I finally gave it up and descended the mountain.” In particular three of the original flag-raisers were Ira Hayes (Akimel O’odham), Rene Gagnon, and John Bradley, each of whom became instant celebrities as they were recruited by the military to sponsor a war bond campaign and tour across the United States. Hansen’s article highlights the research local Omaha resident Eric Krelle, who challenges whether or not Bradley is actually portrayed in the famed photo.

U.S. Camera Magazine (August 1944) page 29

U.S. Camera Magazine (August 1944) page 29 from Dr. Blansett’s private Collection


On the left is a scanned image from a U.S. Camera (August 1944) magazine article entitled, “Training Combat Cameramen: Final Phases of Signal Corps Photo School Course: U.S. Camera Magazine (August 1944). This article details both the specific training and dangers that soldiers within the U.S. Army Signal Corp faced in documenting the war. Often without a weapon, these brave soldiers attacked the enemy with their lens, capturing and documenting the military history of the American war effort. While many of their photos were shared exclusively with the military, many of their photographs were also shared with the larger American public, who remained eager to learn of any news about their loved ones. Aside from the major obstacle of dodging bullets & shrapnel, these cameramen faced unrelenting challenges of extreme temperatures & weather, confined & makeshift lab conditions, risk of equipment failure, life threatening physical wounds, psychological effects, and possible death. Many of the photographic images taken during the D-Day invasion were lost forever due to overexposure of the original film negatives. If cameramen were unable to develop their photos in the field, often their film had to be sent to distant labs for development. While we often remember the heroism and articles from journalists like Ernie Pyle, we often forget to recognize the service of those who helped capture and win the war on film. Many of these images, like Rosenthal’s famed photograph transformed the war effort in immeasurable ways. In many aspects, these military cameramen also transformed how the American public and the world interacted with modern war and the battlefield. By 2000, the YouTube video below, the documentary entitled Shooting War was released by a group of producers which included famed director Steven Spielberg and narrated by actor Tom Hanks. The documentary explores the original footage of the war and those credited with having captured these infamous images.





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