No Caption Needed is a book and a blog, each dedicated to discussion of the role that photojournalism and other visual practices play in a vital democratic society. No caption needed, but many are provided. . . .

February 22nd, 2008

Flag Week: Iwo and Manzanar

Posted by Hariman in visual memory, visualizing war

On February 19, 1945, the Marines hit the beach at Iwo Jima. A few days later Joe Rosenthal would take the most famous iconic photograph of them all. That image will appear throughout the media this week, and it should be no surprise to see it here:


That should not be the only flag we remember, however. Three years earlier, but on the same day as the invasion of Iwo, President Roosevelt signed an executive order granting authority to the military to relocate Japanese-American citizens to internment camps. These two stories could not be more contradictory: on foreign soil, men giving their lives so that their country can remain free; in their own country, soldiers imprisoning fellow citizens who were no threat to the liberty broken by their incarceration.So it is that we should look at another image of the American flag:


This photograph was taken by Dorothea Lange at the internment camp near Manzanar, California. The image captures perfectly the terrible mixture of irony, betrayal, pain, and longing that defines every aspect of this desolate moment in American history.

Two photographs, two flags, two sides of American history. Let’s not forget either one.

Photo Credits: “Flag raising on Iwo Jima.” Joe Rosenthal, Associated Press, February 23, 1945. 80-G-413988 (

“Dust storm at this War Relocation Authority center where evacuees of Japanese ancestry are spending the duration.” Dorothea Lange, Manzanar, CA, July 3, 1942. 210-G-10C-839 (

3 Responses to ' Flag Week: Iwo and Manzanar '

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  1. on February 27th, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Hi…I Googled for american flag pictures, but found your page about …and have to say thanks. nice read. Maria Kanellis

  2. Debate Fail said,

    on October 8th, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    […] Manzanar, California. […]

  3. Thomas said,

    on January 17th, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Its so interesting to see these two pictures together. My family was interned at Manzanar during WWII so I’ve seen this picture many times through research. The Iwo Jima picture is also iconic so its a familiar image to me as well. I have very different reactions to the pictures individually but have a new reaction to them put together. You’re right, it is strange to see the same flag representing two very different situations within the same war.

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