A satirical website mocked the iconic photograph of the American flag rising up atop Mount Suribachi this week — and not everyone found it amusing.
ClickHole, a parody website launched by faux news outlet The Onion, posted the image to Facebook and Twitter Wednesday. Next to the famous black-and-white snapshot of five Marines and one Navy corpsman lifting the flag Stars and Stripes are the words: "Share if you agree that it should only take two guys, tops, to raise a flag."
As of Friday, the image — modeled after popular Internet memes — had more than 1,800 shares on the social media network, 7,500 likes and hundreds of comments.
But where many found a quick laugh, others saw disrespect. The most typical criticism accused the folks behind the image of mocking the bravery and sacrifice of the troops who fought, bled and died on Iwo Jima.
The battle for the Pacific island began in earnest in February 1945. Marines came ashore after a bombardment lasting months, hoping to expel Japanese troops from dug into the island.
Estimates of the Japanese garrison vary, but about 70,000 Marines fought in the 36-day pitched battle. The U.S. victory proved costly; nearly 7,000 troops died and another roughly 20,000 suffered wounds.
The snapshot of the flag raising taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal came to symbolize the hard-won fight. The Corps later adopted it, using the photograph as the inspiration for the Marine Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
So it's no surprise that more than a few self-described veterans, Marines, and the relatives of fighting men and women saw the satire as over the line.
"I earned the right to be called a United States Marine; I have my place in the Corps. I served one tour in Iraq, one in Kuwait and spent six months deployed on a ship. This isn't something I take lightly, it's not something the Marines who bravely raised the flag atop Mount Suribachi would take lightly either," wrote one. "I bet most people who think this is funny couldn't handle a day in boot camp."
"It's not about how many physical people it takes. It's about the brotherhood," wrote another. "We help each other no matter how little the task. We work together to make it a little easier on the service member to our left and right. This is extremely disrespectful."
Representatives of the website, which mocks other online entities that depend on what's known as "click-bait" to thrive, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Still, other purported veterans said they enjoyed the humor. Paul Szoldra, a veteran Marine sergeant and the brains behind the satirical website the Duffel Blog, shared the image after coming across the post on Facebook.
If you understand what ClickHole is mocking — websites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy — it's funny, he said. He understands why fellow veterans would get upset even if he does not share their sentiments.
"What they did was they took a photo, which is extremely famous, and put on this ridiculous caption," Szoldra said. "They're making fun of Buzzfeed, they're not making fun of the guys who put up the flag. ... If you can understand what it was, then yeah, sure, I think it's funny."
Szoldra is not alone. Several self-purported veterans and active duty military personnel weighed in positively on the Facebook post.
"Veteran here; gave me a chuckle," commented one.
"Marine veteran here. I approve of getting people [upset] for a laugh," posted another.
At times, the discourse grew more vulgar and derogatory.
One commentator summed it up thusly: "Lots of brave people behind computer monitors."