W. Eugene Smith first became famous for his gripping photographs of World War II, notably covering the Pacific invasion from 1942-1945. Embedded with Marines on Iwo Jima, Smith captured this stunning image, which appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine on April 9, 1945. According to the LIFE caption, this shot displays Marines blowing up a cave connected to Japanese headquarters on Hill 382, known as “Meat Grinder.” The photo’s title came from Smith’s own handwritten caption. Preparing to send his Iwo Jima photos to LIFE, Smith described this image: “A striking picture which is about the best I have made since the year’s beginning, which still leaves me cold and unsatisfied and yet I do like it for what it is worth.” Barely one month later, on May 22, 1945, Smith himself received life-threatening injuries while hit with mortar fire on Okinawa, taking a year to recuperate.

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