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December 17, 2017

70 years ago, a relatively-unknown photographer took the most iconic war photograph of all time

Iwo Jima Joe Rosenthal / AP

The raising of the US flag atop Mount Suribachi on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima 70 years ago is perhaps the most iconic image of World War Two.

No other picture so succinctly and evocatively captures the triumph of the Allied forces, while also highlighting the critical role that US troops played in the Pacific. The picture has also become one of the enduring symbols of the US Marine Corps.

Joe Rosenthal, at the time an unknown Associated Press photographer, is the man behind the photo. Although it was technically the second flag raising on Iwo Jima, which shows five Marines and a Navy Corpsman, it is no less important. The first flag planted was replaced, as it was too small to be seen from the coast.

Rosenthal, in an attempt to position himself properly for the shot, almost actually missed the flag raising. In a desperate attempt to capture the scene, Rosenthal shot the image without the use of his viewfinder. His gut instinct certainly hit the mar. He went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for his image.

Almost immediately, though, the overall quality of the framing led to accusations that Rosenthal had framed the picture.

This controversy still remains. Fortunately, an official video of the flag raising by a Marine photographer shows that the events transpired naturally, and exactly as Rosenthal had claimed.

Rosenthal’s photo has gone on to become a deeply ingrained cultural image for America. The US Marine Corps War Memorial, in Arlington, Virginia, is modeled after this photo. President Franklin D. Roosevelt also used the image to promote war bonds at the end of the war, and it was featured on stamps.

USMC_War_Memorial_Night en.wikipedia.org The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial at night.

It’s important to note that while the image evoked a feeling of American victory, it was shot only five days into the Iwo Jima campaign. The battle went on for many more weeks, and three of the Marines who raised the flag were later killed in action.

Although Rosenthal’s image has become synonymous with the courage of the Marines, many still debate the value of invading Iwo Jima.

The battle was particularly bloody and was the only battle in which the US Marine Corps suffered more casualties than the Japanese Army. The Japanese were well entrenched on the island when the US decided to invade. Iwo Jima is also a mountainous island, and its topography proved extremely difficult for US troops.

Once taken though, Iwo Jima proved of significant tactical importance as the US military pursued its strategy of “island hopping” to the Japanese mainland. For pushing the US deeper into Japan’s Pacific holdings, the military command decided that the 26,000 American casualties was worth the island.

Both the cost and the accomplishment of the campaign is forever immortalized in Rosenthal’s photograph.

Iwo_Jima_Suribachi_DN SD 03 11845.JPEG Wikimedia Commons Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, the site of the famous flag-raising.

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70 years ago, a relatively-unknown photographer took the most iconic war photograph of all time

Ukraine's recent nuclear reactor scare harkens back to ghosts of historic nuclear accidents

One of the reactors in Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine suffered an accident that triggered an automatic shutdown this week. Reports suggest that damage occurred to a transformer in one of the 1000-megawatt reactors at the Zaporizhye plant, which provides over one-fifth of the country’s electricity.

Ukraine’s energy minister said that it was a “technical fault” and assured the public that there was “no threat” to the reactor’s safety, according to BBC News

With the country already suffering fuel shortage, Ukraine this winter will probably be forced to import electricity from Russia.

Accidents at nuclear rectors makes folks understandably nervous, and is also a reminder that despite all the climate change benefits we get from nuclear energy – like cutting greenhouse gas emissions – there are a lot of risks associated with it, too.

Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima all grabbed the world’s attention over the past 30 years when the crises unfolded at those plants. But what happened after they left the headlines?

The worst-ever U.S. nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, near Middletown, Pennsylvania, was a partial meltdown that occurred on March 28, 1979

The facility was only 3 months old when a cooling problem caused one of the reactors to overheat and release radioactive gases and iodine into the environment, but it wasn’t enough to cause any confirmed health effects to local residents.

The reactor was shut down permanently, was decontaminated and put into what is known as “post-defueled monitored storage,” with plans for dismantling only after its neighbouring reactor on site is shut down sometime in 2034.

In April 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster occurred at Ukraine’s Chernobyl power plant. technicians lost control of nuclear fission reactions in the reactor core and heat rose quickly until pressure built up and explored the core, releasing radioactive steam into the atmosphere. After the initial explosion occurred, fire broke out that sent large clouds of radioactive particles high into the air, which was then swept over a large part of Western Europe. 

Thirty-one people – technicians and firefighters mostly – died from the accident itself, and untold thousands may have contracted cancer. Exact numbers are still being debated

If you want to see the devastation that this nuclear accident wrought in its immediate surroundings check out newly-released video footage obtained via a remote-controlled drone. This is the first time that the nearby ghost town Pripyat has been filmed from the air.

The power plant itself is entombed within an aging concrete structure that was hastily built back during the old Soviet era.

Currently, an internationally-funded project is underway to build a massive 32,000 ton metal arch that will contain the entire building. Hopes are that it will be ready by 2017, before the existing shelter collapses and releases more radioactive-laden dust into the atmosphere like a dirt bomb. It is expected that the arch should last anywhere from 100 to 300 years.

Finally, the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami showed us that there can be natural forces that have to be considered with nuclear power. The Fukushima Daiichi power plant, located 220 km northeast of Tokyo on Japan’s east coast, had three of its six reactors melt down when it got hit by tsunami waves triggered by a 9.0 earthquake. This knocked out its generators which caused its reactors to overheat, explode and release radioactivity into the environment – contaminating food, water and air.  

Over 300,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding villages. Nearly 16,000 residents are still unable to return to their homes because clean up efforts are being hindered by unsafe levels of radiation in the soil and water.

All this radiation from the disaster has definitely not been isolated to just Japan. Researchers monitoring the Pacific Ocean, in which much of the radiation spilled into, have detected radioactive isotopes this past November just 160 km off the coast of California.

So this story will continue to unfold for many years to come.

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Ukraine's recent nuclear reactor scare harkens back to ghosts of historic nuclear accidents

500-Year-Old Traces of Monster Hawaii Tsunami Discovered

A powerful earthquake in Alaska sent towering waves up to 30 feet (9 meters) tall crashing down on Hawaii about 500 years ago, leaving behind fragments of coral, mollusk shells and coarse beach sand in a sinkhole located on the island of Kauai, new research finds.

The quake, likely a magnitude 9.0, sent the mighty waves toward Hawaii sometime between 1425 and 1665, the study found. It’s possible that another large Alaskan earthquake could trigger a comparable tsunami on Hawaii’s shores in the future, experts said.

The tsunami was at least three times the size of the damaging 1946 tsunami, which was driven by an 8.6-magnitude earthquake off the Aleutian Islands. Mammoth tsunamis, like the one described in the study, are rare, and likely happen once every thousand years. There’s a 0.1 percent chance it could happen in any given year, the same probability that northeastern Japan had for the 9.0-magnitude 2011 Tohoku earthquake and related tsunami, said Gerald Fryer, a geophysicist at the pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, who was not involved in the study. [Waves of Destruction: History’s 8 Biggest Tsunamis]

Results of the study have already prompted Honolulu officials to revise their tsunami evacuation maps, Fryer said. The new maps, which will affect nearly 1 million people who live in Honolulu County, would include more than twice the area of evacuation in some areas, Fryer said in a statement. County officials hope to distribute the new maps by the end of 2014, Fryer said.

“You’re going to have great earthquakes on planet Earth, and you’re going to have great tsunamis,” said the study’s lead researcher, Rhett Butler, a geophysicist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “People have to at least appreciate that the possibility is there.”

Evidence of the colossal tsunami surfaced in the late 1990s during the excavation of the Makauwahi sinkhole, a collapsed limestone cave on the south coast of Kauai. About 6.5 feet (2 meters) below the surface, study researcher David Burney found a bounty of old debris that must have come from the ocean.

Curiously, the sinkhole’s mouth is 328 feet (100 m) away from the present-day shore, and 23 feet (7 m) above sea level, suggesting the enormous quantities of corals and shells were probably carried there by a gigantic wave, Burney, a paleoecologist at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kalaheo, said. But he needed more evidence to back up his claim.

Tsunami surge

The debris remained a mystery until the 2011 Tohoku earthquake hit Japan. The earthquake triggered a rapid surge of water that stood 128 feet (39 m) above sea level and pummeled the Japanese coast. Soon after, researchers revisited Hawaii’s tsunami evacuation maps. The maps are largely based on the 1946 tsunami, which caused water to rise 8 feet (2.5 m) up the side of the Makauwahi sinkhole.

“[The Japan earthquake] was bigger than almost any seismologist thought possible,” Butler said. “Seeing [on live TV] the devastation it caused, I began to wonder, did we get it right in Hawaii? Are our evacuation zones the correct size?”

Butler and his colleagues assembled a wave model to predict how a tsunami might flood Kauai’s coastline. They simulated earthquakes ranging between magnitudes 9.0 and 9.6 along the Aleutian-Alaska subduction zone, a 2,113-mile-long (3,400 kilometers) ocean trench where the Pacific tectonic plate slips under the North American plate.

In the aftermath of a large earthquake, the eastern Aleutians’ distinctive geography could send a large tsunami toward Hawaii, the researchers found. In fact, a magnitude- 9.0 earthquake in just the right spot could easily direct water levels of 26 to 30 feet (8 to 9 m) high toward Kauai, carrying debris into the Makauwahi sinkhole, they found. [Photos: Tsunami Debris & Trash on Hawaii’s Beaches]

The researchers also looked for tsunami evidence in other places. Radiocarbon dating showed that the marine deposits in the sinkhole, on Sedanka Island off the coast of Alaska and along the west coasts of Canada and the United States all date back to the same time period, and may have come from the same tsunami.

“[The researchers] stitched together geological evidence, anthropological information as well as geophysical modeling to put together this story that is tantalizing for a geologist, but it’s frightening for people in Hawaii,” Robert Witter, a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, who was not involved in the study, said in the statement.

More evidence is needed to determine whether the deposits came from the same tsunami, Witter said. For instance, radiocarbon dating, which the study researchers relied on, only gives a rough time estimate. It’s possible that multiple tsunamis between 350 and 575 years ago deposited the debris at the three locations, he said.

But the sinkhole debris may be evidence enough that a huge tsunami hit Hawaii hundreds of years ago, he added. “An important next thing to do is to look for evidence for tsunamis elsewhere in the Hawaiian island chain,” Witter said.

Researchers will likely find more evidence of the giant tsunami, Fryer added. “I’ve seen the deposit, ” Fryer said. “I’m absolutely convinced it’s a tsunami, and it had to be a monster tsunami.”

The study was published Oct. 3 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Follow Laura Geggel on Twitter @LauraGeggel and Google+. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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500-Year-Old Traces of Monster Hawaii Tsunami Discovered

Solomon Islander who helped save JFK dies at 93

Honiara (AFP) – A Solomon Islander who helped save John F. Kennedy when a Japanese destroyer sank the future US president’s patrol boat during World War II has died aged 93, his family said Monday.

Eroni Kumana and his fellow islander Buiku Gasa were out in a canoe in 1943 when they came across the injured Kennedy, who was then a naval lieutenant, and members of his crew stranded on a coral atoll.

The pair helped the Americans survive and Kennedy went on to become the 35th president of the United States, keeping a coconut from the ordeal as a paperweight on his White House desk.

Kumana’s son Esori said his father passed away surrounded by family members on Saturday aged 93 and was laid to rest on his home island of Ronongga on Monday.

“It was very sad (but) he lived a full life and we are proud of him,” he told AFP via telephone from the island, where villagers were preparing a feast in Kumana’s honour.

Kennedy’s boat PT-109 was on a night-time patrol when a Japanese destroyer suddenly loomed out of the dark and sheared the wooden vessel in half, according to the Smithsonian magazine.

Spilled fuel ignited in the water, causing both the Japanese and other US PT boats to assume the 13-man crew had all perished in the shark-infested waters.

In fact, 11 of them were still alive and when dawn broke Kennedy led his crew on a five-kilometre (three-mile) swim from the boat’s wreckage to a coral atoll.

Kennedy, who had suffered a ruptured spinal disc, towed a badly burned crewman behind him during the marathon swim.

Eventually Kumana and Gasa passed in their canoe. They helped collect food for the crew and Kennedy sent them off to get help with a message etched into the shell of a coconut, reading: “Nauru Isl commander/native knows posit/he can pilot/11 alive/need small boat/Kennedy”.

After being rescued, Kennedy retrieved the coconut and had it encased in plastic, using it as a paperweight throughout his post-war political career. It is still on display in the Kennedy Museum in Boston.

Kumana and Gasa were invited to Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration but were unable to make the trip to Washington.

Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Gasa died in November 2005.

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Solomon Islander who helped save JFK dies at 93

Japanese get anti-radiation pills ahead of nuclear restart

Tokyo (AFP) – Japanese officials are handing out radiation-blocking iodine tablets to people living in the shadow of two nuclear reactors slated to restart this year, underscoring concerns about atomic power after the Fukushima crisis.

The move to distribute the pills — which help to reduce radiation buildup in the body — started Sunday for those living within a five-kilometre (three-mile) radius of the Sendai nuclear plant.

The site, roughly 1,000 kilometres from Tokyo on the southern island of Kyushu, recently cleared new safety standards and could start operations in a few months.

It comes despite vocal opposition to the plan, three years after the worst atomic crisis in a generation.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said earlier this month that two atomic reactors at the Sendai plant were safe enough to switch back on, marking a big step towards restarting nuclear plants which were shuttered after Fukushima.

Officials in Satsumasendai city and the Kagoshima prefecture said they were handing out iodine tablets to about 4,700 people in the area, some as young as three years old.

Several dozen people have refused the free pills, which were part of stricter central government guidelines aimed at preparing for another accident.

The pills are used to protect the human thyroid gland in the event of airborne radiation, although there is some debate about their effectiveness.

“The affected residents came to five designated locations yesterday to pick up the tablets,” a Kagoshima prefecture official said Monday.

“The central government has guidelines for distributing iodine pills and we asked the affected residents to keep them in easy to remember places, such as medicine cabinets,” he added.

Despite the likely restart of the two Sendai reactors in the autumn, switching on dozens more reactors could prove to be a major challenge for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe has been trying to persuade a wary public that the world’s third largest economy must return to an energy source which once supplied more than a quarter of its power.

Widespread anti-nuclear sentiment has simmered in Japan ever since a quake-sparked tsunami in March 2011 slammed into the Fukushima power plant and sent reactors into meltdown — the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.

The area remains a no-go zone and cleaning up the crippled site could take decades. Tens of thousands of area residents may never be able to return to their homes near the plant.

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Japanese get anti-radiation pills ahead of nuclear restart