Category Archive 'Iwo Jima'

19 Feb 2017

71st Anniversary Battle of Iwo Jima

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V Amphibious Corps Shoulder Patch

February 19, 1945, the Marine Corps landed on Iwo Jima. The battle went on for five weeks and cost 6,821 Americans killed, 19,271 wounded.

My father’s commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Graves B. Erskine, commander of the 3rd Marine Division, said: “Victory was never in doubt. What was in doubt was whether there would be any of us left to dedicate our cemetery at the end.”


My father, William G. Zincavage, later in 1945, a farewell to the service photo taken just before his discharge in December.

17 Mar 2010

Journalists Don’t Recognize This Photo

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Ron Grossman recently tested the historical knowledge of younger colleagues in the Chicago Tribune’s newsroom with sometimes disastrous results.

I took a quick survey in the newsroom the other day, something between a Rorschach test and a pop quiz, asking younger colleagues to identify an iconic photograph of World War II.

While some instantly recognized the image, others couldn’t quite place it.

“I know I ought to know it,” one co-worker said. “It was in the movie, ‘Flags of Our Fathers.’ ” Some, seeing uniforms, realized it must be a war photo. Maybe Vietnam? One got the era right but the battlefield wrong. She guessed it was D-Day, not, as it was, the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima.

08 Feb 2007

Letters From Iwo Jima

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I haven’t seen the new Eastwood film yet, but Jack Cashill has, and he think the liberal critics have got it wrong.

I had postponed seeing Clinton Eastwood’s new movie, Letters From Iwo Jima, for the simple reason that the critics liked it. By and large, they are an even more daft bunch than the people who make the movies. They gave the film the National Board of Review’s “best picture” award and helped goose it on for an Oscar nod.

Letters attracted a critical buzz primarily because it did not ask the audience to do anything as vaguely patriotic as root for America during a time of war, even if another war. The film looks instead at the battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective.

I had presumed that to be so well received the movie had to be anti-war, anti-military, anti-American, or, most likely, all of the above. I overlooked a fourth possibility, the actual one: the critics simply did not understand it.

In the way of background, the island of Iwo Jima had critical strategic significance for the United States and Japan in what proved to be the last year of the Pacific War, and both sides knew it. Only a film critic could describe the battle as “pointless.”

Iwo Jima’s airfields, if captured, would halve the distance that B-29 bombers needed to fly to reach the Japanese mainland. These airfields would also provide a base for P-51 Mustang fighters, which could then escort the bombers on their essential and lethal raids.

Given the way the Japanese had previously defended beaches, U.S. planners worked under the presumption that the island would fall in five days. As in such warlike games as chess or football, however, real war allows each side to make intelligent decisions to advance its own interests.

Liberal critics of the Iraq War have overlooked this truism. They seem to have convinced themselves that all American failures result from “blunders” or “gross mismanagement” for which someone should “apologize.” They give little credit to the opposing forces for resisting creatively and none at all to themselves for encouraging that resistance.

The struggle for Iwo Jima involved just such strategic thinking from a savvy adversary, which is why it proved so costly. Beginning on February 19, 1945 the five hellish weeks of Iwo Jima cost more than twice as many American lives as the four years of Iraq.

Read the whole thing.

24 Oct 2006

Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (2006), 2

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Pfc Ira H. Hayes, Pfc Franklin R. Sousley (killed in action), Sgt Michael Strank (barely visible on Sousley’s left – killed in action), Phm2c John Bradley, Pfc Rene Gagnon, Cpl Harlon H. Block (killed in action)
(Joe Rosenthal photograph

2. BACKGROUND: THE SECOND FLAG

The significance of the Iwo Jima operation, the first US ground assault on Japanese soil, was widely recognized in advance. Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal had travelled to the Pacific from Washington to watch the unfolding of the largest operation in United States Naval history.

On the morning of February 23rd, Forrestal was accompanying V Amphibious Corps Commander Lieutenant General Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith to the beachead. Their landing craft had just touched shore, when the first flag went up atop the volcano. As the Marines around them cheered, Forrestal turned to General Smith, and observed: “Holland, the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.”

Recognizing the historical significance of the colors waving in the distance, Forrestal also asked General Smith to see to it that the flag then flying atop Mount Suribachi be replaced, and the original brought back to him for preservation in the nation’s capital.

The Navy Secretary’s orders were duly transmitted down the chain of command to Col. Chandler Johnson at 2/28 headquarters. Johnson ordered Lieutenant Ted Tuttle, his Operations Assistant Officer, to find a replacement flag. “And make it a bigger one,” Colonel Johnson added.

At the same time, 2/28 HQ was beginning to be having difficulty communicating with the patrol on the mountain’s summit. Lt. Schrier’s field telephone’s battery was giving out. Johnson decided the time had come to run a wired connection up the mountain. A fire team detail from Easy Company’s 2nd platoon, made up of Sgt Michael Strank, Cpl Harlon H. Block, Pfc Ira H. Hayes, and Pfc Franklin R. Sousley was given the assignment. They wound up being accompanied by Pfc Rene Gagnon, Easy Company’s runner, who was deliverying a fresh supply of batteries from the Easy Company command post to Lt. Schrier.

Before the five Marines headed up the mountain, Lt. Tuttle arrived with a 96″ x 56″ (2.44 x 1.42 meter) flag. The new flag came from a salvage yard at Pearl Harbor. It had been rescued from one of the American ships sunk on December 7, 1941. Tuttle gave the new flag to Gagnon, and instructed him to retrieve the original. And the fire team set off on its mission.

The Marines were followed up the mountain by the press. AP wire service photographer Joe Rosenthal had heard of a flag raising, and set off up the mountain to photograph it, accompanied by Marine still photographer Bob Campbell and Marine film photographer Bill Genaust. (Rosenthal had persuaded the armed Marine journalists into coming with him.)

When Sgt Mike Strank arrived at the top, he reported to Lt. Shrier, showed him the replacement flag carried by Gagnon, and explained: “Colonel Johnson wants this big flag raised up high, so that every son of a bitch on this whole cruddy island can see it!”

Rosenthal arrived in the nick of time, a little after noon. The Marines affixed the new flag to a formidable length of Japanese drainage pipe, and Lt. Shrier coordinated the two groups of Marines, so that the new flag would be raised simultaneously with the old flag being lowered.

The photographers had a little time to pick their positions. Rosenthal (who was very short) made himself a pile of stones to stand on. The whole procedure took only a few seconds, but the second pole was very heavy (weighing more than 100 lbs. – 45.36 kg.), and it took the combined efforts of the second group of five Marines, assisted by Phm2c John Bradley, to raise it to the vertical and secure it. So quickly was one flag raised, and the other lowered, that Rosenthal never had a chance to look in his viewfinder, he could only point his camera and trip the shutter.

But in the midst of the Marines’ effort to erect that second flag, destiny intervened. The breeze suddenly caught the flag, whipping it forward, and Rosenthal’s shutter clicked at the perfect moment freezing the six men in a pose of breathtaking monumentality. It was this photograph, this single image, which best conveyed the entire American idea of WWII, the idea of American Marines, of American fighting men, working together welded into a purposeful single entity, to assert the ideals of America, to plant the flag, despite anything the enemy could throw against them.

Astonishingly, the entire scene was actually also captured on color movie film by Marine photographer Sgt Bill Genaust, who was standing literally shoulder-to-shoulder with Rosenthal. Some of the Genaust footage can be seen here. It was also incorporated in the 1949 Alan Dwan film Sands of Iwo Jima, starring John Wayne.

The original Iwo Jima flag was brought back to Colonel Johnson, who placed in in the battalion safe. The new flag lasted for only three weeks. It was quickly torn to pieces by the wind.


5th USMC Division

PART ONE

23 Oct 2006

Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (2006), 1

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Lt. Harold Shrier (sitting behind Jacobs), Pfc Raymond Jacobs, Sgt. Henry Hansen (cloth cap), Unknown (lower hand on pole), Sgt Ernest Thomas (back to camera), Phm2c John Bradley (helmet above Thomas), Pfc James Michels (with carbine), Cpl Charles Lindberg (above Michels).
(Louis Lowery photograph)

1. BACKGROUND: THE FIRST FLAG

On the morning of February 23, 1945, D-Day + 4 of the Battle of Iwo Jima, on Mount Suribachi, after three days heavy bombing, naval artillery bombardment, and infantry attack, Japanese resistance seemed to have waned.

Lt. Col. Chandler Johnson, commander 2nd Battlalion, 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division, sent two four-man patrols to explore routes up the mountain’s northern face. They successfully reached the volcano’s summit, and returned. So Chandler hastily assembled a 40 man platoon from surviving elements of the 3rd Platoon, Easy Company, augmented by 12 men from his Mortar Platoon and some members of the 60mm mortar section. Command was given to First Lieutenant Harold Schrier, along with orders to ascend the mountain, blowing up caves, and extinguishing any surviving Japanese resistance encountered on the way, and attempt to secure the top.

As an afterthought, Johnson took an American flag from his map case, handed it to Schrier, and told him, “If you get to the top, put it up.”

Staff Sergeant Louis Lowery, a photographer for the Marine Corps’ Leatherneck Magazine, asked for, and received, permission to accompany and record the ascent.

The platoon proceeded upward for forty minutes, blasting caves they passed with hand grenades, but without being attacked. Reaching the summit around ten A.M., they salvaged a length of Japanese water pipe to use for flagpole, and as Marines below cheered and Navy vessels blew signal horns in triumph, erected the first United States flag to fly on Japanese soil.

No sooner was the flag erected, then the Marine platoon found itself engaged in a firefight with a handful of Japanese survivors. It was later discovered that hundreds of Japanese, who could easily have annihilated the platoon, had killed themselves in Suribachi’s caves, many by clutching a hand grenade to their bodies.

Raymond Jacobs account


V Marine Amphibious Corps

PART TWO

22 Oct 2006

Flags Over Iwo Jima

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WWII veterans commemorate the recent film by releasing a video discussing the two flag raisings on Iwo Jima. For the marines battling for control of the island, it was the first flag raising, not the second flag raising which produced the monumental Joseph Rosenthal photo, which counted.

video

28 May 2006

Eastwood Directs Two Iwo Jima Films

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A story in the Observer reveals that Clint Eastwood has been directing two Iwo Jima films, both to be released later this year.

(Its author, Justin McCurry, is a seriously annoying pommy twit who applies a leftwing slant to every detail of the news story.)

The first film will be based on James Bradley’s Flags of Our Fathers, a history of the battle focused on the famous Marines’ flag-raisings on Mount Suribachi, one of which was captured in the famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal.

The second film, focusing on the Japanese point of view, will be titled Red Sun, Black Sand.

Japanese Iwo Jima veterans who met Eastwood say they are confident the films will honour their fallen comrades. ‘I asked him to make a human drama, not a war film,’ said 83-year-old Kiyoshi Endo, of the Japanese Iwo Jima Veterans’ Association. ‘I wanted him to show how the soldiers felt when they were fighting and, having read the script, I think he has done that. Who won or lost is not the point.’

The Japanese Iwo Jima Veterans’ Association must be a pretty small group.


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