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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Flags of Our Fathers
On February 23, 1945, six young men — boys, really — marched up Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima and raised an American flag in a gesture of freedom. Almost by accident, the moment was captured on film, becoming not only the most famous photograph taken during World War II but an image that continues to resonate throughout history.
In Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley — son of the last surviving flag raiser, John "Doc" Bradley — tells the story of six very different men who came together in a moment that will live forever. In a small town in Wisconsin, James Bradley grew up knowing that his father was one of the men in the famous photo. But that was all he knew — his father never spoke of the picture nor, for that matter, the war to his family. After the elder Bradley's death in 1994, his children discovered letters and photos that revealed much about their father's role in one of the grisliest battles of the Second World War, sparking a flurry of research that ultimately led to this book.
Who were these boys? Hailing from tiny pockets of small-town America, their origins mirrored the broad diversity of American life. They were from the hills of Appalachian Kentucky and the Arizona desert; from idyllic small-town Wisconsin and the iron smelters of Pennsylvania; from the mills of Manchester, New Hampshire, and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Caught in time, they are a snapshot of American boyhood in the 1930s. Boys who became men as they enlisted and trained for "the fightfordemocracy," eventually thrown together by fate and the U.S. Marine Corps on a tiny little island south of Tokyo. Bradley captures the explosive battle there in all its riveting, bloody detail.
On the fifth day of that battle, a photographer caught one jubilant, triumphant — and spontaneous — moment that would inspire incredible support for the war back home. But as Bradley discovered, that instant by no means marked an end to the fight or to the story that would unfold.
Indeed, perhaps most intriguing is what happened after the victory. Three of the six boys died only days later, amid the brutal fighting on Iwo Jima. The three survivors returned home, hailed as heroes, and lived as reluctant symbols. For two of them, the adulation that came with a photo beloved by the public was shattering. As for John Bradley, he never displayed the picture — and only after his death did his family uncover the Navy Cross, the nation's second highest award for valor, that he had earned just two days before the flag raising.
Flags of Our Fathers is both a study of six men and the tale of a nation amid the horrors of war and its aftermath. Exploring such themes as patriotism, heroism, and integrity, it's a powerful story that no one will ever forget.