Why 70-year-old Iwo Jima photo became iconic

Story highlights

  • Photos were taken of two flag-raisings on Iwo Jima
  • Ben-Ghiat: One photo became iconic, representing tragedy and triumph of the war

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a professor of history and Italian studies at New York University and a specialist in 20th century European history. Her latest book is "Italian Fascism's Empire Cinema." The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)Seventy years ago, on February 23, two American flags were planted on the peak of Mount Suribachi, located on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. Coming five days into one of the most ferocious battles of World War II, the first flag-raising, by a group of United States Marines, was emotional, and a Marine photographer captured it.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat
But a U.S. commander thought the flag was too small to be seen at a distance.