Auctions | September 25, 2019

Quadruple-Signed Photo of Iwo Jima Flag Raising Offered at Heritage Auctions

Dallas – A powerful photograph of one of the most famous military images in American history is expected to be one of the items in highest demand at Heritage Auctions’ Photographs Auction Oct. 4 in New York.

Joe Rosenthal’s Raising the Flag on Mt. Surbachi, Iwo Jima, 1945 (estimate: $15,000-25,000) captures Marines as they raised an American flag after American forces captured Mount Surbachi, a dormant volcanic cone on the island of Iwo Jima, a small island halfway between the American long-range bombers on the Mariana Islands and the Japanese Mainland. The island was a strategic landmark, because it was part of the Japanese warning system, so claiming it became a priority for American forces who spent three days fighting for it.

There were two flag raisings on Mount Surbachi Feb. 23, 1945. The first flag raised was deemed too small, and replaced by the one in this iconic photo, in which six flag-raisers have been identified: Ira Hayes, Michael Strank, Franklin Sousley, Rene Gagnon, John Bradley and Harlon Block. It was during the second flag raising that Rosenthal snapped his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo.

The photo is signed by Marines John Bradley, Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes, the only three in the photo who survived the battle, as well as the by the photographer, Rosenthal. The Marines added their signatures when they were brought to Washington, D.C., so they could pose for sculptor Felix de Weldon, so he could sketch their faces for his Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial) that now stands in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital. At least three copies of this image have turned up at auction signed by Bradley, Gagnon and Hayes, but this might be the only copy that also includes Rosenthal’s signature.

“The significance of this photo cannot be overstated,” Heritage Auctions Photographs Director Nigel Russell said. “The image captures one of the most iconic scenes in the history of the U.S. military, one that has been recreated in films, stamps, coins and in the memorial outside of Washington, D.C. By itself, the image is powerful, but to have it signed by three of the Marines who raised that flag, as well as by the photographer, makes this an undeniable rarity that can be the centerpiece of any historical or photographs collection.”