A famous quote issued by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz about the battle on Iwo Jima [serves as summary]: “Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”1 The truth of that statement is evident in the fact that more marines received the Medal of Honor on that little island than in any other battle in U.S. history.2


Our poster focuses on one of the most compelling images in this country’s history, the image of Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima.

Winter 1945: Massive shells crash overhead on a small island in the Pacific Ocean; U.S. Marines fight for their lives. Every inch of the rock known as Iowa Jima had to be taken by force. Despite the brutality of the fighting and the [ferocity of] the Japanese defenders, the Marines took that island. The image speaks to the infallibility of the American people, triumphing over adversity and succeeding in the face of [what seemed to be] insurmountable odds.

Research and Analysis
Iwo Jima was the site of some of the worst fighting [of] the entire war. The Marines suffered 26,000 casualties, roughly one out of every three U.S. soldiers who served on the island. 6,800 Americans lost their lives.

E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, reached the summit of the Mount Suribachi and raised an American Flag there.3 That flag was sent back to the Generals as a memento, and a replacement flag was raised in its place. Later, that replacement flag rising was caught on film by Joe Rosenthal, a photographer with the Associated Press.4

He had captured one of the most powerful images in American military history.

Variations from the Photograph, Symbolism / Interpretation
The poster does not try to hide the fact that the war was brutal, treacherous. Butthe poster does provide a sense of hope that united the American public, and helpedfuel the 7th War Loan. While the artist, C. C. Beall, closely based his poster on thephotograph, he changed several characteristics, adding the sense of frustration,exhaustion, and, [finally], determination and patriotism.

The sky behind the Marines is dark, showing the sun rising on the horizon. The lighting change in the poster serves as a symbolic device. The Marines raising the flag in front of the sunrise is a representation of the eventual victory of America in the Pacific, the victory over Japan, the land of the rising sun.

Contemporary Commentary
The image has also been used against the United States. People wanting to make a statement will change the American flag on the end of the flagpole to something else, like the golden arches logo for McDonalds, with writing in Arabic. The image is a universal representation of American power and success, causes for resentment.

The [image is embodied] in the statute erected in Arlington, Virginia. The statue is … a monument [honoring] the entire Marine Corps.5 The base bears this inscription: “Uncommon valor was a common virtue”6

The poster was hung in one million retail stores, 200,000 factories, 30,000 railway stations, 16,000 movie theatres, 15,000 banks, and 5,000 large billboards. The bond raised $26 billion, the most of any war bond drive. $26 billion dollars was almost half of the total budget for the United States which, in 1946, was $56 billion.7

Ultimately, World War II was a war of [firm resolve and high-level production] that affected the whole world. The nations with the determination to stay the course, and the economy to produce the necessary goods, prevailed. “On the American home front in World War II, being a patriot meant, among other things, buying bonds (‘buy a share of America!’), farming your own vegetables (‘grow it yourself!’), and working tirelessly, be it in the factory (‘shootin' the bull ain't shootin' nazis!’) or in the home (‘remember Pearl Harbor ... purl harder!’).”8

The United States possessed the determination and capacity, but not the [will], not without the advent of the modern poster. The artists and administrators who created and distributed the propaganda posters of World War II helped to mold the will of the American public, as well as persuade everyone in the nation to contribute vast amounts of money to the war effort. Who is to say what the outcome … would have been for America if the posters had not distributed?

1“Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue” www.mcldetachments.org/IwoJima/Iwo%20Jima%20Articles.htm, accessed 10/10/06
3“Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue” www.mcldetachments.org/IwoJima/Iwo%20Jima%20Articles.htm, accessed 10/10/06
4“Iwo Jima”www.iwojima.com, accessed 9/21/06
5“U.S.M.C. War Memorial” www.nps.gov/archive/gwmp/usmc.htm, accessed 10/2/06
6“Iwo Jima” www.iwojima.com, accessed 9/21/06
7“Iwo Jima” http://www.iwojima.com/bond/index.htm, accessed 9/21/06
8Michael Tsai, “WWII Posters Taught America Patriotism,” the Honolulu Advertiser,April 11, 2006.


Places I've Been

The following links are virtual breadcrumbs marking the 27 most recent pages you have visited in Bucknell.edu. If you want to remember a specific page forever click the pin in the top right corner and we will be sure not to replace it. Close this message.