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Feb. 23, 1945: U.S. flag raised on Iwo Jima

The iconic photo of U.S. Marines raising an American flag during the bloody WWII battle for Iwo Jima was taken on February 23rd, 1945
On this day: American flag raised on Iwo Jima 01:37

On February 23rd, 1945, five days into the battle for Iwo Jima, U.S. Marines raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi.

Legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite reported on the flag raising during a special report covering the battle. "On the fifth day, the Marines take Mount Suribachi," he said, as military footage of the historic moment played on screen.

Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was there to take what became one of the most iconic war photos in American history.

The first raising is actually not the one depicted in the now-famous picture. The first flag was taken down, and Rosenthal took a picture as a second flag was raised.

Iwo Jima survivors recall 1945 battle 02:58

Regardless, the photo has become a symbol of victory of WWII. But the flag raising wasn't always seen in that light.

"None of us doing the fighting thought that was the end by a long shot," Lawrence Snowden, then a 23-year-old captain, told CBS News' David Martin on the 70th anniversary in 2015.

"We knew we were just getting started," Snowden continued.

The battle for Iowa Jima was one of the bloodiest of WWII. U.S. forces began the fight for the Japanese island of Iwo Jima on February 19th, which lasted for over a month. By the time the battle came to an end on March 26th, almost 7,000 American lives had been lost and 20,000 more were injured.

Iwo Jima vet James Scotella recounts raising of American flag 02:35

Frank Matthews was an 18-year-old private at the time. He was part of a team providing relief for a 900-man regiment that had basically been wiped out on the first day of fighting.

"They lost 750 in one five hour stretch," Matthews said last year. "Every inch of that beach and everything around it had been pinned down and zeroed in by the Japanese guns."

The U.S. went on to win the fight for the island, which was used as an emergency landing site for bombers attacking the mainland.

And the photo, of course, was memorialized in bronze and dedicated to the U.S. Marine Corps by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.

The statue, known as the Marine Corps War Memorial, stands tall in Washington, D.C.

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