In February 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf at Iwo Jimaand into history. Through a hail of machine-gun and mortar fire that left the beaches strewn with comrades, they battled to the island's highest peak. And after climbing through a landscape of hell itself, they raised a flag.
Now the son of one of the flagraisers has written a powerful account of six very different young men who came together in a moment that will live forever.
To his family, John Bradley never spoke of the photograph or the war. But after his death at age seventy, his family discovered closed boxes of letters and photos. In Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley draws on those documents to retrace the lives of his father and the men of Easy Company. Following these men's paths to Iwo Jima, James Bradley has written a classic story of the heroic battle for the Pacific's most crucial islandan island riddled with Japanese tunnels and 22,000 fanatic defenders who would fight to the last man.
But perhaps the most interesting part of the story is what happened after the victory. The men in the photothree were killed during the battlewere proclaimed heroes and flown home, to become reluctant symbols. For two of them, the adulation was shattering. Only James Bradley's father truly survived, displaying nocopy of the famous photograph in his home, telling his son only: "The real heroes of Iwo Jima were the guys who didn't come back."
Few books ever have captured the complexity and furor of war and its aftermath as well as Flags of Our Fathers. A penetrating, epic look at a generation at war, this is history told with keen insight, enormous honesty, and the passion of a son paying homage to his father. It is the story of the difference between truth and myth, the meaning of being a hero, and the essence of the human experience of war.
|Publisher:||Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||Abridged, 4 Cassettes, 6 hrs.|
|Product dimensions:||4.50(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Ron Powers is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He is the author of White Town Drowsing and Dangerous Water: A Biography of the Boy Who Became Mark Twain. He lives in Vermont.
Read an Excerpt
The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know —Harry Truman
In the spring of 1998 six boys called to me from half a century ago on a distant mountain, and I went there. For a few days I set aside my comfortable life—my business concerns, my life in Rye, New York—and made a pilgrimage to the other side of the world, to a tiny Japanese island in the Pacific Ocean called Iwo Jima.
There, waiting for me, was the mountain the boys had climbed in the midst of a terrible battle half a century earlier. The Japanese called the mountain Suribachi, and on its battle-scarred summit the boys raised an American flag to symbolize our country's conquest of that volcanic island, even though the fighting would rage for another month.
One of those flag raisers was my father.
The fate of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries was being forged in blood on the island of Iwo Jima and others like it in the Pacific, as well as in North Africa, parts of Asia, and virtually all of Europe. The global conflict known as World War II had mostly teenagers as its soldiers—kids who had come of age in cultures that resembled those of the nineteenth century.
My father and his five comrades—they were either teenagers or in their early twenties—typified these kids: tired, scared, determined, brave. Like hundreds of thousands of other young men from many countries, they were trying to do their patriotic duty and trying to survive.
But something unusual happened to these six: History turned all its focus, for 1/400th of a second, on them. It froze them in an elegant instant of one of the bloodiest battlesof the twentieth century, if not in the history of warfare—froze them in a camera lens as they hoisted an American flag on a makeshift iron pole.
Their collective image became one of the most recognized and most reproduced in the history of photography. It gave them a kind of immortality—a faceless immortality. The flag raising on Iwo Jima became a symbol of the island, the mountain, the battle; of World War II; of the highest ideals of the nation; of valor itself. It became everything except the salvation of the boys who performed it.
For these six, history had a different, special destiny that no one could have predicted, least of all the flag raisers themselves.
My father, John Henry Bradley, returned home to small-town Wisconsin after the war. He shoved the mementos of his immortality into a few cardboard boxes and hid these in a closet. He married his childhood sweetheart. He opened a funeral home, fathered eight children, joined the PTA, the Lions, and the Elks—and shut out virtually any conversation on the topic of raising the flag on Iwo Jima.
When he died, in January 1994, in the town of his birth, he might have believed he was taking the story of his part in the flag raising with him to the grave, where he apparently felt it belonged. He had trained us, as children, to deflect the phone-call requests for media interviews that never diminished over the years. We were to tell the caller that our father was on a fishing trip, usually in Canada. But John Bradley never fished. No copy of the famous photograph hung in our house. When we did manage to extract from him a remark about the incident, his responses were short and simple, and he quickly changed the subject.
And this is how we Bradley children grew up: happily enough, deeply connected to our peaceful, tree-shaded town, but always with a sense of an unsolved mystery somewhere at the edges of the picture.
A middle child among the eight, I found the mystery tantalizing. I knew from an early age that my father had been some sort of hero. My third-grade schoolteacher said so; everybody said so. I hungered to know the heroic part of my dad. But try as I might, I could almost never get him to tell me about it.
John Bradley might have succeeded in taking his story to his grave had we not stumbled upon the cardboard boxes a few days after his death.
My mother and brothers Mark and Patrick were searching for my father's will in the apartment he had maintained as his private office. In a dark closet they discovered three heavy cardboard boxes. In those boxes my father had saved the many photos and documents that came his way as a flag raiser. All of us were surprised that he had saved anything at all.
Later I rummaged through the boxes. One letter caught my eye. The cancellation indicated it was mailed from Iwo Jima on February 26, 1945, written by my father to his folks just three days after the flag raising: "I'd give my left arm for a good shower and a clean shave, I have a 6 day beard. Haven't had any soap or water since I hit the beach. I never knew I could go without food, water or sleep for three days but I know now, it can be done."
And then, almost as an aside, he wrote: "You know all about our battle out here. I was with the victorious [Company E,] who reached the top of Mt. Suribachi first. I had a little to do with raising the American flag and it was the happiest moment of my life."
The "happiest moment" of his life? What a shock! If it made him so happy, why didn't he ever talk about it? Did something happen either on Iwo Jima or in the intervening years to cause his silence?
Over the next few weeks I found myself staring at the photo on my office wall, daydreaming. Who were those boys with their hands on that pole? Were they like my father? Had they known one another before that moment or were they strangers united by a common duty? Was the flag raising the "happiest moment" of each of their lives?
The quest to answer those questions consumed four years of my life and ended, symbolically, with my own pilgrimage to Iwo Jima.
Iwo Jima is a very small place to have hosted such a savage battle. Only eight square miles, the tiny island barely crests the seemingly infinite Pacific. The value of capturing this speck of land for the Americans was its location and its two airfields. The island provided a place for American planes to stop and refuel on crucial bombing missions to and from Japan.
Not many Americans make it to Iwo Jima these days. It is a dry wasteland of black volcanic ash that reeks of sulfur (the name means "sulfur island"). A closed Japanese naval base, it is inaccessible to civilians except for rare government-sanctioned visits.
It was the commandant of the Marine Corps, General Charles Krulak, who made the trip possible for me, my seventy-four-year-old mother, three of my brothers—Steve, Mark, and Joe—and many military men and women. One of first things we did on the island was to walk across the beach closest to Mount Suribachi, on the black volcanic sands. On their invasion maps the Marines had dubbed it "Green Beach," and it was across this killing field that young John Bradley, a Navy corpsman, raced under heavy fire. I watched as my mother made her way across that same beach, sinking to her ankles in the soft volcanic sand with each step. "I don't know how anyone survived!" she exclaimed.
Then it was time for our family to ascend the 550-foot volcanic crater that was Mount Suribachi. My twenty-one-year-old father had made the climb on foot carrying bandages and medical supplies; our party was whisked up in vans. I stood at its summit in a whipping wind that helped dry my tears. This was exactly where that American flag was raised on a February afternoon fifty-three years before. The wind had whipped on that day as well.
From the edge of the extinct volcanic crater, we could view the entire two-mile beach where the armada had discharged its boatloads of Marines. In February 1945 the Japanese could see it with equal clarity from the tunnels just beneath us. They waited patiently until the beach was crowded with American boys. They had spent many months positioning their gun sights. When the time came, they simply opened fire, beginning one of the great military slaughters of all history.
An oddly out-of-place feeling seized me: I was so glad to be there! The vista below us, despite the gory history, was invigorating. The sun and the wind seemed to bring all of us alive. At Suribachi you feel on top of the world, surrounded by ocean.
And then I realized that my high spirits were not so out of place at all. I was reliving something. I recalled the line from the letter my father wrote three days after the flag raising: "It was the happiest moment of my life."
We Bradleys then began to take pictures. We posed in various spots, including near the X that marks the spot of the actual raising. We had brought with us a plaque to personally commemorate the flag raising and our father's role in it. Joe gently placed the plaque in the dry soil.
IN MEMORY OF
JOHN H. BRADLEY
FROM HIS FAMILY
I began to speak to the Marines who had gathered in front of our memorial.
I spoke first of the battle. It ground on over thirty-six days. It claimed 25,851 U.S. casualties, including nearly 7,000 dead. Most of the 22,000 defenders fought to their deaths.
It was America's most heroic battle. Two out of every three Americans who fought on this island were either killed or wounded. More medals for valor were awarded for action on Iwo Jima than in any battle in the history of the United States. To put that into perspective: The Marines were awarded eighty-four Medals of Honor in World War II. Over four years, that was twenty-two a year, about two a month. But in just one month of fighting on this island, they were awarded twenty-seven Medals of Honor, one-third of their accumulated total.
Next I showed the Marines the famous flag-raising photograph. I remarked that nearly everyone in the world recognizes it, but no one knows the boys.
I pointed to the figure in the middle of the image: solid, anchoring, with both hands clamped firmly on the rising pole. That's my father, I said. John Bradley was known to the other Marines in his company as "Doc" because he was a medical corpsman. He is the most identifiable of the six figures, the only one whose profile is visible.
I pointed next to a figure on the far side of John Bradley. Rene Gagnon, the handsome mill hand from New Hampshire, stood shoulder to shoulder with my dad in the photo, but he is mostly obscured by my father.
I gestured to the figure on the far right of the image, the leaning, thrusting soldier jamming the base of the pole into the hard Suribachi ground. His right shoulder is nearly level with his knee. His buttocks strain against his fatigues. This was Harlon Block, the athletic, independent-minded Texan. A star football player, he enlisted in the Marines along with all the seniors on his high school football team.
I pointed to the figure directly in back of my father: the boyish, freckle-faced Franklin Sousley, from Hilltop, Kentucky. He was fatherless at the age of nine and sailed for the Pacific on his nineteenth birthday.
Look closely at Franklin's hands, I asked the silent crowd in front of me. Do you see his right hand? Can you tell that the man in back of him has grasped Franklin's right hand and is helping Franklin push the heavy pole? The most boyish of the flag raisers, I said, is getting help from the most mature, Sergeant Mike Strank.
I pointed now to what can be seen of Mike. He is on the far side of Franklin. You can hardly see him. But his helping young Franklin was typical of him. He was respected as a great leader, a Marine's Marine. Finally I singled out the figure at the far left of the image—the figure stretching upward, his fingertips not quite reaching the pole. The Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes, I said. His hands couldn't quite grasp the pole.
Six boys. They form a representative picture of America in the thirties and forties: a mill worker from New England, a Kentucky tobacco farmer, a Pennsylvania coal miner's son, a Texan from the oil fields, a boy from Wisconsin's dairy land, and an Indian living on an Arizona reservation.
Only two of them walked off this island. A third was carried on a stretcher with shrapnel embedded in his side. Three were buried here.
Holy Land. Sacred ground.
All wars are boyish, and are fought by boys —Herman Melville
I'm not a professional researcher, but I figured that if I could somehow dig deep enough, I might be able to learn something about these six boys, and especially about my silent father. I could not do this task alone. I would need other people, relatives and comrades of these six figures, to help me.
I began my research by buying a book about Iwo Jima and reading it. Then another. And another. I have since lost count.
I found names in those books—the names of the boys shoving that flagpole aloft.
Back in my office, I started to trace them. I phoned city halls and sheriff's offices in the towns where the flag raisers were born and asked for leads that would put me in touch with their relatives. I dialed the numbers, then waited through the rings for that first "Hello?" from a widow, sister, or brother of one of the boys whose hands had gripped the iron pole on Suribachi.
I widened my phone searches to include living veterans of Iwo Jima. I wanted their memories, too. Eventually I began to travel to the places where these people lived.
I wanted to know them as Marines, as fighting men who were also comrades. But I also wanted to know them as boys, ordinary kids before they became warriors.
What I found was that these six boys were very different from one another: the whooping young Texas cowboy; the watchful Indian; the happy-go-lucky Kentucky hillbilly; the serious Wisconsin small-towner; the handsome New Hampshire mill worker; the sturdy Czech immigrant.
And yet so similar.
They were nearly all poor. The Great Depression was a thread that ran through their lives. But then so did football, and religious faith, and strong mothers. So did younger siblings, and the responsibility of caring for them. And nearly all were described again and again as quiet, shy boys, yet boys whom people cared about.
From the Audio Cassette edition.
What People are Saying About This
These stories from the time the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima enlisted, their training, and the landing and the subsequent struggle, filled me with awe… The best battle book I've ever read.
Reading Group Guide
The Reality of War
Social studies classes study the world's wars and the impact war has on a global society. Students learn about ancient wars and the more modern wars that have been fought in the name of freedom. They know about the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II. Some students know about the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, and the Persian Gulf War. Before the events of September 11, 2001, students in America's schools knew little about the personal tragedies related to war. War was simply something that happened in books, in another time, and on foreign lands. Now, war surrounds them–on television, radio, and in film. Some know firsthand what it feels like to lose a parent to terrorists, and others wait eagerly in front of the television in hopes of gaining a glimpse of a family member or friend who may be in the Iraqi desert or on the streets of Baghdad. Like the main characters in the novels in this guide, the innocence of America's children has been marked by violence. A new page of history is being written every day, and it is being done before the eyes of the world's youngest citizens.
For this reason, it is extremely important that parents and teachers talk with children about war, and offer hope that the world might someday find a peaceful solution to global conflict. Sometimes it is difficult to find the words to explain the complex issues of war, but books are always a good way to spark understanding and conversation. This guide offers discussion for the following books: The Gadget by Paul Zindel; Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead; Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence; Flags of our Fathers by JamesBradley with Ron Powers, adapted for young people by Michael French; Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian; and For Freedom by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.
Engage students in a discussion about the recent war in Iraq, and how it was reported in the news. Divide the class into three groups, and assign each group one of the major newspapers or magazines to read. Ask that they read a few issues of the publications during the time of the war and take note of the major headlines, the views of the journalists, etc. Allow students time at the end of each week to share their findings. What conclusions can be drawn about the role of journalists in war?
1. Engage the class in a discussion about the meaning of patriotism. What is the relationship between duty and patriotism?
2. Private Tex Stanton, Second Platoon, Easy Company said, "Life was never regular again. We were changed from the day we put our feet in that sand." (p. 69) Discuss how the Battle of Iwo Jima changed the men who fought there. Compare and contrast how each of the six flag raisers were changed.
3. Discuss the qualities of a hero. Jack Bradley never viewed himself as a hero and felt that the real heroes of the Battle of Iwo Jima were the men who gave their lives. What role did the media play in making the six flag raisers heroes? How might these six men be considered symbols of all the heroic men who fought at Iwo Jima? In the book, James Bradley discusses the difference between a hero and a celebrity. How did President Roosevelt turn these heroes into celebrities?
4. Discuss the meaning of the inscription "Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue" that is on the face of the bronze statue of the six flag raisers that was unveiled at Arlington National Cemetery on November 10, 1954. The three surviving flag raisers attended the unveiling ceremony. James Bradley states that after that day, "Never again would they meet, never again would they serve the photograph." (p. 178) How had these men "served the photograph"? Discuss whether new generations who visit the bronze statue can fully understand the impact the photograph had on the American people when it was first published.
For more activities on Images of War, see these titles: For Freedom by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Lord of the Nutcracker by Iain Lawrence, Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead, Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers adapted for young people by Michael French, The Gadget by Paul Zindel, and Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian.
Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book retells the renowned story of the six flag raisers on Iwo Jima. They were six simple American boys who were trying to make a difference by fighting in WWII to defend their homes. When the boys were young they didn't know each other, but when heat of war began on Iwo Jima, they soon became brothers for the rest of their lives. They all knew each other and tried to watch over each other during battle. Throughout the book, you learn about all of the challenges that they faced and how they overcame. They grew up apart, but they became one and went down in history together. Throughout this book there is a lot of heartache, but all of the soldiers learn to overcome this pain through unity. Every single soldier learns from day one that everything is about unity. Nothing works as well if it is just an individual. The best success comes from working together and trusting the ones around you. Without your team mates you might end up dead and everyone knew that their brothers needed help just as much as they did. They could always count on each other and always trusted one another. The part that I liked most about this book was the heroic tales. The story of the flag rising on Iwo is a very popular story, but a lot of times you do not hear about what went on before these six boys had the chance to raise this flag. This battle was all about who had more guts and who was willing to go the farthest and sacrifice the most to achieve their goal. Young American men would throw their bodies on live grenades just to save lives. They all knew that the death of one was much better than the loss of twenty. Every single American was fighting for the same things and knew that they would do what they had to do in order to win the war. One thing I didn't like about this book was it was so long. You can't really change that though because you need all that information to be able to know what's going on. I also liked how much detail James Bradley put into this book. I felt like I was there and watching it happen. I couldn't imagine what those soldiers went through when they got home. Seeing that many soldiers die would be traumatic. I thought it was amazing that he got all this information by going around the country looking for people who knew the six flag raisers and then writing a book about it. I believe that someone could easily pick this book up and start reading it because it tells the storey that we all know about, but not in great detail, which is where this novel comes in to fill the gaps. When looking for a book along the same lines as Flags of our Fathers you can pick up Flyboys also written by James Bradley. I would give the book an overall 4.5 stars out of 5 solely because it can get long and dry, but quickly then makes up for it by bringing you back into the heat of battle.
The memoir Flags of our Fathers, which spent 46 weeks on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list by James Bradley, was, in my opinion, a great book. It is not a regular memoir in, but it is a snapshot of an important part of the lives of the people involved. It was pieced together by the author using journals, diaries, pictures, records, and the accounts of eyewitnesses and family members. The Author is not actually part of the story, but the events and facts are true. The book was about the six flag raisers on Iwo-Jima made immortal by the famous photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal. The book tells the story of these inspirational men, and specifically John Bradley, the author's father. WWII was a war with many remarkable and savage battles, but few match the battle of Iwo-Jima. Iwo-Jima is an 8 square mile island controlled by Japan, when the U.S attacked, the Japanese fortified the island and swore not to give ground. The fighting conditions were terrible for the marines and morale was low, however, several U.S marines climbed mount Surabachi, a center point of Japanese resistance, and raised an American flag for all to see. The event was captured forever by Joe Rosenthal, who took a photo of the six men hoisting the flag together. The book tells the tale of each of these men's journey in the battle, as they experience the horrors of war in the pacific theater, the brutal part of WWII that took place in the sandy beaches and steaming jungles of the pacific islands, and how they deal with the brutality around them, as described by John Bradley talking about his friend, "The Japanese took him underground and tortured him.it something I've always tried to forget." Several of them simply could not deal with the sights they saw and the things they did, sinking into depression or become dependant on alcohol. Only one man lived a long, untroubled life, and that was by completely locking up the memories of that traumatic chapter of his life, never speaking of it or making public appearances after the war bond drives. This is part of the message of the book: War is a terrible thing, and it affects people very seriously. I would recommend this book to some seventh graders but not all due to the strong violent content.
Written by a son of one of the flagraisers and yet he did not glorify those 6. This book is true to the core. To all those who fight for our country, thank you for your bravery. Saepe Expertus. Semper Fidelis.
It was only a replacement flag, but became the flag in the most famous photograph in history. Flags of Our Fathers begins in 1998, when James Bradley, son of one of the flag-raisers, travels to Iwo Jima to post a memorial to his father, John Bradley. But where the story truly begins is on a cold February day in 1945. Two days after the Marines landed on Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, five Marines and one Navy Corpsman placed a replacement flag on top of Mt. Suribachi. The photographer, Joe Rosenthal, wasn't even sure he got the photograph. He wouldn't know for weeks because the film would need to be air-lifted to Hawaii for processing before it was sent back to the States. The photo itself was only of the replacement flag anyway. The commander of the Marine force had ordered the original flag replaced because the Secretary of the Navy wanted it. The commander felt it belonged to the Marines. What happened next would stun the flag-raisers who survived. Days later the photo would circulate the globe, announcing that the Marines had taken Iwo Jima even though the battle had barely begun. For a nation tired of war, this didn't matter. The photo gave them hope, a hope they desperately needed to continue the war. Only three of the flagraisers would survive the battle; three died within days of raising the new flag. Major Messages and Themes: It is also a very human story. It's a very personal story of how human beings learn to cope with the most horrific events imaginable. While one of these men seeks further fame for his role in the picture, the two remaining survivors struggle to return to "life as normal". Post Traumatic Stress Disorder wasn't a term these survivors knew. They struggled in silence to deal with horrors they couldn't understand. I liked the book in that it was a true story in what these men had to do for their country and how they had to go through all of the horrors that were on Iwo Jima, everyone who likes to learn about history or just want a good read should read this book to have a good reading experience. My overall rating i would say this book is a 9 out of 10.
This is US History at it's best. This book is about true American's are made of. Nuff said!
This book retells the renowned story of the six flag raisers on Iwo Jima. They were six simple American boys who were trying to make a difference by fighting in WWII to defend their homes. When the boys were young they didn't know each other, but when heat of war began on Iwo Jima, they soon became brothers for the rest of their lives. They all knew each other and tried to watch over each other during battle. Throughout the book, you learn about all of the challenges that they faced and how they over came. They grew up apart, but they became one and went down in history together. Throughout this book there is a lot of heartache, but all of the soldiers learn to over come this pain through unity. Every single soldier learns form day one that everything is about unity. Nothing works as well if it is just an individual. The best success comes from working together and trusting the ones around you. Without your team mates you might end up dead and everyone knew that their brothers needed help just as much as they did. The could always count on each other and always trusted one another. The part that I liked most about this book was the heroic tales. The story of the flag raising on Iwo is a very popular story, but a lot of times you do not hear about what went on before these six boys had the chance to raise this flag. This battle was all about who had more guts and who was willing to go the farthest and sacrifice the most to achieve their goal. Young American men would throw their bodies on live grenades just to save lives. They all knew that the death of one was much better than the loss of twenty. Every single American was fighting for the same things and knew that they would do what they had to do in order to win the war. They would not let anyone or anything stand in their way. Personally I loved the book, but I did have one dislike. At points, the book was hard to follow. It seemed to jump around a lot and it was hard to get a grasp on when what they were talking about happened. All of the events were very thought catching, but it could be hard to understand if you were to get lost. I think this book is be very educational. For someone that is not completely sure about what happened on Iwo Jima, this book could help clear up anything that you are confused about. The only reason someone might not want to read this book is because of some of the gruesome depictions. Another book that is good and very closely related to this book is "Letters from Iwo Jima". This book tells the same story, but it is from the Japanese point of view. Overall I would give Flags of our Fathers a five star rating for its excellent ability to keep the reader interested.
This story brings to life the truth of the flagraising on Iwo Jima. It tells the struggles of the six young men who were captured in a moment in time. How thier lifes seemed to be under the rule of this image that was sadly mistaken by the people of America. It shows how an action can be totally miscontrued by the viewers. Iliked this book because it shows the real stuggles of real people.
Having been born and raised in Wausau, Wisconsin I never knew we had such an outstanding man such as John Bradely living here. The book is not just about his life, the battle, and the aftermath but of a son's discovery of his father who he always saw as a great man. I would say this is a MUST READING for any one in Wisconsin. I can't begin to tell you how it has affected my life and outlook at the war in the pacific. And I also love historical movies/books.
Enjoyed every tear.
The reading of Flags of Our Fathers was very timely. February 19th marked the anniversary of the famous flag raising on Iwo Jima, Japan. The first word that comes to mind when I think about Flags of our Fathers is respect. This was a book written with the utmost respect, not only for the author's own father, but for the other five men responsible for raising the flag on Japan's Iwo Jima. Everyone knows the photograph born of that historical event but not many can name the six men involved. In fact, even fewer would guess there were six men there. Unless you scrutinize the photograph, at first glance, there are only four. James Bradley, with the help of Ron Powers, brings to life all six men. He brings them out of historical obscurity and into present-day focus.
This was a hard book to read as my father was a SeaBee who landed on Iwo Jima with the Marines and was put to work building the airfield so desperately needed by the bomber pilots on their return trips from their missions to Japan. The book held me to the very end even though it didn't really cover the role of the SeaBees. What a shame that story has never been covered adequately.
Now here's how you write a history book! This follows the life of the six Marines that are in the famous picture that was later made in to statues to honor the Marine Corps. There names were Mike Strank, Franklin Sousley and Harlon Block, Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon and John Bradley. The first three died in action and never made it off Iwo Jima. Mr. Bradley is the author's father, and by refusing to talk to his family about the battle, indirectly inspiring his son to write this fine book. There is a rather brief look at their childhood, details of their training and their action on Iwo and a few chapters on the War Bond fundraising tours that the survivors were asked to participate in. A large part of the narrative is taken from quotes and writings of the six soldiers and their friends, families and soldier buddies, as many people as the author could find to talk to. To me, that's what sets this book apart from the majority of bland history texts. There is definitely a personal and emotional connection that is rare in the non-fiction world. I highly recommend it to casual readers who may not want to read a war story about arguably the most horrific battle in the modern era. The blood and guts is kept to a minimum (but what constitutes the minimum in such a bloody battle?) and the emotion on many levels is important and should be read by every American to get a sense of what our soldiers have had to do in a REAL war.
Really good book. I would say that it is really cool how he gets you almost inside the head of the people who raised the flag.
I loved this book. Why I love reading WWII books completely escapes me but the research that went into this book is incredible. The details horrify and engage me. This is an excellent book to understand why Iwo Jima, how, and at what cost. It also gives a moment by moment commentary of the seconds of the flag raising. Includes how each of the six flag bearers lived and died.
I've wanted to read this book since I read an excerpt from it in Reader's Digest ages ago, and I saw the two Clint Eastwood-directed movies on Iwo Jima last year.It was an intriguing read, starting slow with the backgrounds of the flag raisers and then become downright intense during the battle scenes. Wow. I'm guessing the battle descriptions were written by Mr. Powers, and I must say they were astounding. Horryifying, yet astounding. The six men who raised the second flag are described in great detail, but the seventh character is just as interesting - The Photograph. The Photograph takes on a life of its own as a symbol and propaganda tool, even as terrible gossip becomes accepted as fact due to inept, hasty reporting. The Photograph haunts the survivors till their deaths, and it could be argued that it exacerbated them (especially in the tragic case of Ira Hayes). It's really a beautifully done tribute to the Marines killed on Iwo Jima, and the lingering impact that this sulfur island had on the ones who miraculously survived. Very good, thought-provoking book.
I can't describe what this book did to me. I cried for weeks. It really messed me up. emotionally powerful. Great account of the men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima. You really get to know them. true american heros. 100 times better and way more emotional than the movie.
I loved this book. This book made me want to learn more about iwo Jima. I think the movie adaptation was very accuarate too.
A wonderful look into that famous photograph of Iwo Jima. But beyond that, it's a wonderful look into several lives that just happened to come together at the taking of that photo, and a touching look by a son into his father's life. Heartwarming, educational and inspiring.
Excellent review that introduces the reader to the six boys who became men and eventually raised the American Flag in the famous Marine photo. Higly recommend as not only a book on war but also a book about coming of age and how boys grew up in the Marines and in World War II.
Excellent account of the men who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi and the events both before and after the immortal photograph, while debunking the myths surrounding this defining moment in history. A must read for any Marine or student of Marine Corps history.
This book should be required reading for high school history class .
This is the BEST book I've ever read on the Pacific War, and one of the best about WWII (and I have read a LOT of them). It deserves 10 stars! My dad knew & worked with another hero of Iwo Jima: Hershel "Woody" Williams, the last living Medal of Honor winner from that battle. I met him a couple of times. Just like the men portrayed in this book, he was unassuming & respectful. Recently he spoke to a group of soldiers shipping out for Afghanistan. At one point he said, "I look forward to the day when a Medal of Honor will no longer be needed".
James Bradley's, book Flags Of Our Fathers depicts six men who put up the American Flag on Iwo Jima and the significance of this event. Bradley assesses who these men were before the war, during the war, after the war, and how the photo of them (on the cover of the book) putting up the flag affected their lives. Bradley develops a candid tone with his readers to capture who the men were; he almost makes you feel as if you were there with these men. Bradley begins his book by going on a hunch and trying to figure out who these men were, including his dad, depicted in the photograph. After, rummaging through his dad boxes, Bradley finds a letter his dad, John "Doc" Bradley, wrote to his parents from Iwo Jima. Upon, reading this letter Bradley discovers that his father's most joyous moment was when he had finally reached the top of the mountain. Bradley was in a shock because his father would never talk about Iwo Jima after he came back from the war. Bradley then starts wondering who the rest of the boys captured in the photo with his dad were. Bradley goes on a quest for four years to find out who these men were, before they were all set upon the horrendous journey of war. Bradley provides the reader with anecdotes of who they are and how they became who they are. Bradley's purpose is to outline the idea that war affects everyone, from the men in it, to all the families, and the kids. It shows how John (the author's father) never liked to talk about Iwo Jima because he claims that the real heroes stayed at Iwo Jima. And how Ira Hayes could never get a grip on life after the war and suffered from Post-traumatic stress syndrome. Or how 3 of the 6 boys died along with 26,000 Americans and 21,000 Japanese. By the end of the book you'll fall in love with all 6 of the boys who helped raised the flag on Iwo Jima. You'll feel like you were with them on the day they all landed on the beach. And you'll feel like a part of you dies. When Franklin, Mike and Harlon all die on the beach.
"It's funny what a picture can do." - Ira Hayes What happens when a man refuses to talk about his experiences in war? Well, it can lead those around him to seek out what happened by other means. Men who saw the unbridled horror of man's inhumanity to man can be excused for not wishing to discuss what they've experienced. However, those who love him want to know what his life in war was like, however brief the look. James Bradley (along with Ron Powers) has crafted a book that takes a look his father's experiences as one of the flag raisers on Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima. Along the way, we meet the other flag raisers - Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon, Harlon Block, Franklin Sousley and Mike Strank. We meet them as they grow up from the veritable slices of Americana through the war and afterwards, as the battle affected the remaining survivors. "Doc" Bradley was the last surviving flag raiser, dying in January 1994. At the beginning, the book takes on all the appearances of being a vanity project on the part of the author, discussing he and his family's discovery of his heretofore unknown Navy Cross medal. This leads the family to eventually end up on Iwo Jima and standing on Mount Suribachi and the laying of a monument on the site. Such a story would best be reserved for an afterward as it does not immediately bring the reader into the story and only reinforces to the reader that we are reading someone's therapy sessions in trying to understand their father and what he meant to them. After a desultory exposition about the Japanese culture and society during the 1920s and 1930s, the author finally hit his stride and the book manages to soar as storytelling. We finally see each flag raiser as he grows up and makes the decision to fight for his country. The stories of each member are deep and provide the color necessary to show them as real people, and not the props they ended up being, especially during the Seventh War Bond drive. There are considerable words expended describing their training both in California and Hawaii in preparation for the invasion of "Island X". The many months of training served them well in the meat grinder of Iwo Jima. The force that landed there was fighting a Japanese army it could not see but was molded (in the perversion of the Bushido samurai ethic) into a soldier that would rather die at his own hand than surrender. These words are vital to understanding what was necessary for the American Marines to succeed, and what success meant in the larger scope of World War II. In the end, the flag raising itself as depicted by history is actually a second flag raising. Due to the desire of a colonel to see a bigger flag on Mount Suribachi, a slightly different cast of characters lifted the larger flag into position. This second raising caused no end of controversy and confusion among the Marines, the photographer, and a government looking for a symbol of hope among the carnage of Iwo Jima. After the war, Gagnon, Bradley and Hayes are recruited to work a bond tour and to lend "technical assistance" to the movie "The Sands of Iwo Jima" starring John Wayne. The three survivors attempt to carry on as best they could. Sadly, PTSD was not known in those days otherwise Ira Hayes would not have (hopefully) developed the drinking problem that led to his death. Gagnon - the youngest of the three and married to a gold-digging woman - always felt his fame would be his ticket out of the New Hampshire mills and into the life of luxury. And yet, John Bradley went and got his license in mortuary science, bought a funeral home, raised a family and went back to being Joe Everyman. PARENTAL NOTE: This book does describe war without varnish, as well as the torture and killing of Bradley's friend Ralph Ignatowski. For this reason, I would at least skim over the book before giving it to anyone under 16 to read. BOTTOM LINE: This book takes you everywhere you need to go to understand the battle of Iwo Jima.