Joseph J. Rosenthal was born on 9 October 1911 in Washington, D.C. After graduating from McKinley High School in 1929, he moved to San Francisco, California, where he became an office boy with the Newspaper Enterprise Association.
In 1932 he became a news photographer. For several years he was chief photographer and manager in San Francisco for Times Wide World Photos before it was absorbed by the Associated Press in 1941. In that year, Mr. Rosenthal joined the staff of the Associated Press.
He attended the University of San Francisco during the early phases of World War II. In 1943, however, Mr. Rosenthal joined the United States Maritime Service as a photographer and served in the British Isles and North Africa. The next year he returned to San Francisco and rejoined the Associated Press. Shortly thereafter he became a war correspondent. In this capacity he covered the landings at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, Guam, Peleliu, Angaur, and Iwo Jima. He also was on board carriers that struck at Formosa, the Ryukyu Islands, and the Philippines.
In 1945 he was awarded the Pulitzer Award for photography for his classic shot of American Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi. Following the end of the war, Mr. Rosenthal returned once again to San Francisco where he joined The San Francisco Chronicle. He stayed with that newspaper for the next 35 years.
On 13 April 1996, Mr. Rosenthal became an Honorary Marine during the 1996 Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation’s annual ball in Chicago, Illinois.
Mr. Rosenthal passed away on 20 August 2006 at an assisted living facility in Novato, California, of natural causes. He was 94. He was cremated and his ashes scattered.