USS Joseph Rosenthal?

| March 13, 2017

According to SFGate some retired Marines are lobbying for the naming of a ship for the photographer of the iconic Iwo Jima flag raising, Joseph Rosenthal.

“Joe Rosenthal took one of the greatest photographs in history, and yet he has been bypassed by history,” said Tom Graves, a member of the Marine Corps Correspondents Association who is spearheading the drive.

Graves and members of the Marines’ Memorial Association in San Francisco have an online petition — They have over 1,300 signatures and plan to get thousands more before submitting them to the Secretary of the Navy.

So far they have the support of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, and hundreds of Marines and veterans. Graves hopes to get the backing of many more political bodies, including the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Rosenthal, then a civilian war correspondent working for the Associated Press, took the picture of the Marines raising the flag atop Suribachi mountain on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945.

Thanks to HMC Ret for the tip.

Category: Navy

Comments (42)

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  1. Ex-PH2 says:

    I think that is a fine idea.

    • HMC Ret says:

      PH’s opinion doesn’t count. She a photog, also, so she has no say in the matter.

      Great idea.

      • Former EM1/SS says:

        Perhaps we could ask a certain ‘honorary CPO’ Oh yeah, he is neither honorable nor a CPO…..

        But I second the great idea

  2. Mick says:

    Well, in my opinion, Joseph Rosenthal is certainly more deserving of having a ship named after him than Gabby Giffords or Harvey Milk.

    And before anyone starts honking at me about Rosenthal ‘only being a photographer’, please keep in mind that he accompanied the Marine patrol up Mount Suribachi before they planted the flag. He routinely went into harm’s way with the Marines on Iwo Jima; he wasn’t in the rear with the gear.

    • The Other Whitey says:

      Hear, hear!

    • CB Senior says:

      Harvey Milk was at least in the Military.
      Navy of course. Loved …..
      I know I could not help myself.

      Did Mr. R go into harms way for the sheer benevolence to the Marine Corps. No, he was there to get a great scoop, and make a name for himself. If he was assigned to photo coffins coming back to Dover we would be calling him a vulture.

      • tom graves says:

        Early in the war Joe was a warrant officer photographer in the Merchant Marine in the Atlantic. He asked for assignment to the Pacific “where the action is.”

    • tom graves says:

      Mick is right. Joe was upfront on four amphibious landings and under the same fire as the Marines.

  3. The Other Whitey says:

    Better a USS Joe Rosenthal than a USS Carl Levin.

  4. Hondo says:

    Have to be a contrarian here.

    I have no “dog in this fight”; I was Army. But it seems to me that SSgts Louis R. Lowery and Bill Genaust – the two military photographers who took photographs on Suribachi at Iwo before and at the same time as did Rosenthal – each have a better claim to have a ship named after them.

    Especially Genaust. He didn’t survive Iwo.

    • Atkron says:

      Someone email the Commandant, and ask him to make Joe Rosenthal an Honorary Marine…problem solved.

      • Hondo says:

        Not really.

        As noted above, Rosenthal was there voluntarily – getting paid and trying to make a name for himself. He succeeded.

        Lowrey and Genaust were there because the USMC said, “That’s your place of duty. You have no choice in the matter. Now, go take some photos.”

      • tom graves says:

        Joe was already named an Honorary Marine. Twice.

    • Perry Gaskill says:

      No offense, but I’m going to disagree, Hondo. It strikes me as curious that somebody with such a good ear for music can’t seem to recognize the qualitative difference in the flag-raising photos. Both Lowery and Genaust put out a good workmanlike effort judging from the images in the June link. The Rosenthal image is from a photojournalist at the top of his game. It’s something that can be used as an example when people talk about photography as a fine art.

      A rough equivalent might be like the difference between a good lead guitar in a bar band, and Eric Clapton.

      Slightly off topic is the news today that photojournalist Nick Ut has decided to retire after 51 years. Ut, you might remember, is the one who took the famous “Napalm Girl” photo during Vietnam.

      • Hondo says:

        Their relative photojournalism skills have zero to do with my opinion, PG.

        SSgts Lowrey and Genaust were in the USMC, during World War II. One was KIA on Iwo.

        Rosenthal was a guy covering the war on assignment for AP, and found himself in the right place at the right time while getting paid and trying to make a name for himself. He was lucky enough to capture lightning in a bottle.

        Genaust captured exactly the same photo on motion picture film. Unfortunately for him, Rosenthal’s photo hit the AP newswire well before Genaust’s film hit the newsreels. Otherwise, a frame from Genaust’s film would be the iconic photo from Mt. Suribachi.

        Before we name ships after people connected to the military by mere circumstance, I think we should recognize those who served. Those who served and died deserve priority in my book over those who essentially followed them looking for a “score” to make their professional reputation.

        • tom graves says:

          Rosenthal was doing his job, just like the Marines. They carried their rifles and he carried his camera. The Marines followed orders and Rosenthal drew on his own initiative to hit the beach and photograph the battle from the black sands and from Mt. Suribachi. His pay was the same as if he had stayed on the ship. He was nearly killed several times, but if he had been killed, it would not have made him a better photographer. (Dozens of journalists die in war zones each year, but I bet you can’t name one who’s died since WWII.)

          Joe would be the first to say he was lucky to get his photo and lucky to leave Iwo Jima unharmed. Unfortunately, Sgt. Genaust was lucky to get his film but unlucky to die on the island.

        • 11B-Mailclerk says:

          Rosenthal admitted it was happenstance that he caught that picture. It was a hasty snap as someone called his attention to the flag raising. It was a pure “point and shoot” moment.

          The most famous one I can think of, and justly so.

          But he did get it, and the USMC made a legend of it, and a cultural touchstone of the moment and the participants.

          Arguably, a -huge- contribution the Corps.

      • tom graves says:

        Well put, Perry.

        I don’t know if there has ever been a “race” to take the first photo or the second. If there was, Lowery won the race. But his photos (and others of both flag raisings) do not nearly have the heart-stirring affect, or in 1945, the practical impact of Rosenthal’s photo, which lifted the spirits of the entire nation.

    • desert says:

      Oh? did their photo win a pulizer? or is the result of their photo a National Memorial? runner ups don’t count in horseshoes either!

  5. Wilted Willy says:

    Being this is our favorite Democratic state, I somehow doubt he will get a ship named after him? Not to say he doesn’t deserve it, but in California? No way, unless he was from Berkley or Gay?

  6. Li Right says:


    I’m all in on this one.

    USS Carl Levin?? OMG!

  7. 1610desig says:

    How about Kristin Beck, or is that so last administration?

  8. Ex-PH2 says:

    Well, I was going on the idea that it was a choice preferable to Harvey Milk, who frankly never did anything at all. However, if we’re going to name ships after deceased military photographers, there’s a huge list of Navy Photographers Mates available, many of whom served on ships at see during WWII, Korea and Viet Nam. There are also Army combat photographers, like Canadian soldier Jack Turner at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, going back to WWI, so there is no shortage of people who did something worthwhile in recording events for the military.
    There’s no shortage of people. I just thought Rosenthal was preferable to Milk.

    • Mick says:

      Or Gabby Giffords.

    • AW1Ed says:

      How about every ship used in a SINKEX is named USS Ray Maybus?

      • The Other Whitey says:

        Hey, that was my idea! And a damn good one, if I do say so myself.

        • AW1Ed says:

          Great minds think alike, TOW.


          • The Other Whitey says:

            Y’know, I always thought a SINKEX is kind of sad. I know, we can’t keep every ship, and the breaking yard isn’t exactly a happy place, but still.

            So let’s do something to make the SINKEX a happy occasion!

            • AW1Ed says:

              Add Ray-Ray’s name to the stern, renumber her to “Zero” and paint his smarmy mug on the deck as an aim-point?

              That would make me happy.

            • desert says:

              Hell yes we can keep every ship! We keep the carriers as life saving, disaster relief zones, anything else keep the support ships to the carriers and the rest, cut them up for the steel we seem to be short of….sinking them, is so freaking ridiculous I can’t believe it!

              • Just An Old Dog says:

                Actually it gets to the point that the cost of repairing them far outweigh the costs of new construction.
                There are also issues, especially with envirionmental concerns and safety, where the cost isn’t worth the scrap metal that can be recovered from the structure.

  9. ex-OS2 says:

    USS Cocksucker

  10. jonp says:

    Was he a Senator, American hating commie, Social Justice Warrior or gay? If not then I don’t think he has a chance

  11. Just An Old Dog says:

    Does Ernie Pyle have anything named after him?

  12. ALVO says:

    U.S.S. Dickie Chapelle anyone???