(This article appeared in the September 9, 2000 issue of
the Observation Post, the base newspaper for Twentynine
Capt Jason D. Grose
7th Marines Regimenal Adjutant
Mr. James Bradley has achieved success in writing a book of
such quality that it is only overshadowed by the subject he writes
about. "Flags of Our Fathers" is actually three stories in one.
First, it tells of the America of the early 1920s and how
families struggled to scratch out a good life in hard times.
He does this through the biographies of 6 boys who will grow
to be unknown or unwilling American icons.
Second, he tells of the ravages of a battle, adding background
about the entire World War II, and how horrific war can get.
It is an assault on your very understanding of human interaction.
Third, Mr. Bradley outlines the aftermath of that kind of
experience whether it be the individual, or the need of America
to latch onto heroes in return for the pain inflicted on a nation.
The history of Americana was a real eye-opener to me. Anyone
with an ungrateful modern teen should grab him or her by the
neck and cram this book into their hands. It tells of struggle
and happiness in simple things. Ironically, these young, fresh
faced boys who grew up hard but happy, would end up paying the
ultimate price but not before witnesses terrors unimaginable
by the average person. It is a study in tragedy.
I have been a Marine, enlisted and Officer, for over 13
years and numerous times, I cried unashamedly while reading
this book. Mostly during the vivid accounts of the battle and
what was expected of these Marines and Sailors.
Imagine knowing full well that you would most likely die
horribly as you chugged toward an island known to have the most
concentrated defenses ever erected by man. Think about running
from the sidelines of an open football field toward the
other side while every space is filled with machine guns shooting
at you. Then imagine you cannot see them to fire back in an
attempt to lessen the wall of hot steel pouring at you. Now,
if you can, imagine doing that for a month every day while,
at night, you must worry about them sneaking up on you and killing
you. Throw in that everyone you knew and cared about was either
dead or wounded while in the same situation.
Mr. Bradley found first-hand accounts of men who listened
to enemy soldiers bayoneting American boys whose last screams
were: “Mom! Mom! He’s killing me! Mom, he’s killing me!”
He notes that even though the fanatical Japanese, whose
belief was that they had to die in battle in order to get into
Heaven, were told that the Emperor’s name should be on their
dying lips. Yet, their last words were always the same as every
other man who dies in battle. That word, regardless of what
country they are fighting for, inevitably takes some form of:
After trying to absorb all of this, the author explains
in detail the real story behind raising that flag. How uneventful
it was and yet how Joe Rosenthal captured a moment that symbolized,
by its inspiring appearance, what America needed at the time:
knowledge that the national sacrifice made on Iwo was a noble
But tragically, only three of the six flagraisers would
make it off that island and the other trio were subjected to
a public hungry for their image. The irony was that they were
worshipped for being in that photograph while each one of them
had performed unfathomable feats of courage and heroism before
and after that moment which they were never recognized. And
that, I think, is the crucial concept that embittered these
survivors until the end of their lives.
In conclusion, this may very well be the best book I have
ever read. If I could get America to stop what she is doing
and read this from cover to cover, I think that the cohesive
bond America had during this time period could make a comeback.
I will force this book into the hands of everyone I know and
wait to reap the flood of gratitude when they finish it.