Joe Rosenthal and Thomas Franklin: Two Photos with a Patriotic Subject

Iwo Jima  As the United States and its allies advanced toward the eventual conquest of Japan during World War II, capturing the Pacific island of Iwo Jima stood as a critical aspect of overall strategy. Having conquered the Marianas Islands in the summer of 1944, attention turned to this tiny speck in a huge ocean in February of 1945, due to its airfields and the role it would play in the eventual fall of the Japanese homeland. Heavily fortified and tenaciously defended by the Japanese, it became the scene of a ferocious and bloody battle that took place over a 36-day period of time – extracting heavy casualties on both sides of the story. An estimated 75,000 U. S. military personnel played a role in the successful invasion of Iwo Jima, but at least 7,000 of them lost their lives before the Stars and Stripes were permanently raised over Mount Suribachi, the highest geographical prize of the conflict. The raising of that flag was the subject of a photograph that later won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography, and became the inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial that was dedicated in Washington D. C. on November 10, 1954.

joe-rosenthal-raising-the-flag-on-iwo-jima-1945     Taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945, the award-winning photo depicts 5 U. S. Marines and 1 sailor struggling to raise the American flag over Mount Suribachi five days into the epic battle. Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer attached to the Pacific Theater of Operations during the waning months of World War II, snapped the photo at about 1:00 PM using an iconic Speed Graphic Camera, with a lens setting between f/8 to f/11 and a shutter speed at 1/400th of a second. Tragically, three of the Marines captured at that moment by Rosenthal would not survive the Battle of Iwo Jima, whereas the other three later became celebrities and participated in a whirlwind war bond tour that raised over $26 billion. Besides the inspiration it provided for the Marine Corps Memorial, Rosenthal’s photo has also been the subject of a postage stamp –and the actual flag is preserved in the National Museum of the Marine Corps, located in Quantico, Virginia. One of the Marines raising the flag, Ira Hayes, has also been immortalized in a Johnny Cash song entitled The Ballad of Ira Hayes.

Another photographer snapped a similar photograph during another epic battle – thethomas-e-franklin-ground-zero-spirit aftermath of the 911 tragedy in New York City. Entitled Ground Zero Spirit, the photo is the work of Thomas E. Franklin, a photographer for the Bergen Record with well over 20 years of professional photography experience. Taken just hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center, his photo chronicles the efforts of 3 firefighters that were raising the flag above the rubble of Ground Zero. Like Rosenthal’s photo, it became the subject of a postage stamp, raising over $10 million to benefit families and rescue workers of 911. A finalist for a Pulitzer Prize himself, Franklin later met Rosenthal on several occasions. He realized instantly at the time he shot his famous picture of the 911 aftermath that its composition would bear remarkable similarities to the Iwo Jima photo of Rosenthal.

With his photo included in a Clint Eastwood directed movie entitled Letters from Iwo Jima, Rosenthal passed away in his sleep on August 20, 2006. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Public Service Medal by Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter on September 15, 2006. As stated by Secretary Winter, there was no question Rosenthal deserved the distinction:

“For exceptionally distinguished public service in support of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. On February 23, 1945, a bespectacled Mr. Rosenthal made a picture of five U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy corpsman that immortalized the American Fighting spirit during World War II and became an everlasting symbol of service and sacrifice, transcending art and the ages. Mr. Rosenthal’s poor eyesight prohibited him from serving in the armed services, so, he instead went to war summoning the craft he had practiced since the Great Depression. He bravely accompanied island-hopping forces in the Pacific as a civilian news photographer. On Iwo Jima, Japan, short of breath from climbing the 546-foot volcano, Mr. Rosenthal, in haste, stood on top of shaky rocks in search of the best graphic composition. As the six men hoisted an iron pole and the American flag unfurled in a smart breeze for all to see, Mr. Rosenthal captured the precise moment, unaware, until much later, of its significance. Since that very day, his iconic photo has stood as a testament to the perseverance, esprit and dedication of American Marines. In recognition of his own service and dedication, Mr. Rosenthal is posthumously awarded the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award.”

The connection between Rosenthal and Franklin transcends time and 2 different types of war. There is no doubt that the bravery of the Marines and firefighters depicted in the 2 photos are an example to us all, and such individuals should certainly be memorialized and remembered. The photos also serve as a reminder that victims of terrorism are not unlike casualties of war, and they deserve to be commemorated and memorialized through a monument – for the same reason we honor soldiers who die on the battlefield. The video below is an interview with Thomas Franklin concerning his famous photo of September 11, 2001 – but before viewing, please take a brief 5 minutes of your time and sign the petition to which this website is dedicated.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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The Global Peace Palace: Promoting Martyrdom and Tolerance

Taj Mahal    With a long history rooted in the export of pepper and rubber, the State of Kerala is located in southwest India on the Malabar Coast. Noted for its high rate of literacy, house boats, and touristkerala-district-map attractions, it is a region of India that is ranked high on the Human Development Index (HDI), which is “a new way of measuring development by combining indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income into a composite” ranking of geographic areas and countries. Consisting of a population that is 56.2% Hindu, 24.7% Muslim, and 19% Christian, Kerala is a region of India in which very little sectarian violence takes place – making it a relatively serene example of religious tolerance in a country that has experienced intense hostilities with neighboring Pakistan. One of the more bloody conflicts involving Pakistan and India occurred in 1971, when India invaded East Pakistan to end the persecution of Hindus living in that area as a significant minority of the population. A decisive victory for the Indian military, the war involved nearly 1 million troops – with about 12,843 killed in battle, another 14,201 wounded, close to a 100,000 prisoners of war, and approximately 10 million refugees that fled East Pakistan into India.


The Global Peace Palace Resembles the Taj Mahal

One of those serving in the victorious Indian Navy was Akb Kumar, who would retire in 1985 as a Chief Petty Officer with 18 years of military experience. Now age 62, Kumar has recently spent his life savings in the erection of a memorial to war heroes and terror victims, as an effort “to tell the world to discard weapons and embrace peace.” A resident of Alappuzha, a city located in the State of Kerala, Kumar chose a location nearby at Thumpolly Junction along National Highway 47 for the construction of his memorial, which is purposefully designed to resemble the Taj Mahal, the famous mausoleum constructed in Agra, India by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1648. Comprising an area of 7,000 square feet, the monument is about 42 feet high and includes four minarets that represent the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and Paramilitary Forces. Along the walls are engraved the names of war heroes and terror victims, including those who lost their lives in the infamous Mumbai Attacks, which took place from November 26 to November 29, 2008 – claiming the lives of 166 Indian citizens and seriously injuring at  least another 308. Coordinated by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), these attacks were the work of Islamic extremists that targeted the Taj Majal, movie theaters, hospitals, cafes, bus terminals, a Jewish community center, and St. Xavier’s Catholic University in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay).

Kumar presently lives with his family in living accommodations that are attached to the back side of the Global Peace Palace, which received its official inauguration on December 27, 2011. The website proudly includes a list of “martyrs,” as well as an application process through which individuals and families can volunteer to help or suggest other names to be honored by the memorial. In describing his motivation for using his life savings to honor


The Website Invites Volunteers and the Names of Other Martyrs

those that have fallen in battle and as victims of terror, Kumar is fervent about the propagation of peace:

“Why should we spend millions of rupees in the name of war? The poor continue to remain poor and underprivileged. The rich countries have started an arms race, creating a sense of insecurity all around, forcing the third world countries to also jump into the arms race that causes a major dent to their exchequer. Acts like this have caused countries like India to slide into poverty. This thinking led me to construct the ‘Global Peace Palace’ to spread the message against war.”

Kumar spent approximately $450,000 on the construction of his unique monument, a sum he raised mostly from the sale of family property, including a coconut plantation his wife had inherited. Since the architect who designed the building is a personal friend, the total cost is considerably discounted from normal expectations. Since October of 2012, he has been in the process of placing all the flags of the world around the palace. The admission to the Global Peace Palace is free, so his intentions must be viewed in terms of altruism.

While considering the story of Akb Kumar and his dream of peace, one is reminded of the role religious intolerance has played in terrorism – which is very evident in the Mumbai Attacks. As David Gibson of the Huffington Post has noted, absolutist religious beliefs and radical political narrow mindedness often combine to “act as an accelerant to terrorism.” Cultural concerns, economic factors, and psychology also play a prominent role, but religion becomes the rallying point around which fanatics express their discontent with the powerful elite by killing and maiming the innocent. Psychology Today has labeled this phenomenon “Sacred Terror,” involving engagements that “take on an over-powering, transcendental necessity” for the person committing the violence. Kumar should be lauded for his realization that a monument can become a valuable instrument in combating this horrific pattern, for a memorial dedicated to the victims of terrorism is the most meaningful in the hope, tolerance, and peace it offers to the world – while also recognizing those that have died innocently. In a deep sense, such a testimonial honors and speaks to the future of the world far more than it does the past.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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