“FLAGS Of Our FATHERS” By James Bradley with Ron Powers. Say “Iwo Jima,” and what comes to mind? Most likely a famous photograph from 1945: six tired, helmeted Marines, fresh from a long, terrifying and bloody battle, work together to raise the American flag on Mount Suribachi. Bradley’s father, John, was one of the six. In this voluminous and memorable work of popular history mixed with memoir, Bradley and Powers reconstruct those Marines’ experiences, and those of their Pacific Theater comrades. The authors begin with the six soldiers’ childhoods. Soon enough, bombs have fallen on Pearl Harbor, and by May 1943 the young men have become proud leathernecks. Bradley and Powers incorporate accounts of specific battles, and pull in corps life and lore. And they cover the strategy and tactics leading up to the awful battle for the island and the navy’s disputed plans for offshore bombardment, cut at the last minute from 10 days to three; the 16 miles of Japanese underground tunnels, far more than Allied intelligence expected. A quarter of the book follows the fighting on Iwo Jima, sortie by sortie. The final chapters pursue the veterans’ subsequent lives: Bradley and Powers set themselves against often-sanctimonious tradition, retrieving the stories of six more or less troubled individuals from the anonymity of heroic myth. A simple thesis emerges from all the detail worked into this touching group portrait, in a comment by John Bradley: “The heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who didn’t come back.” No reader will forget the lesson. 2000 Hardback edition with dust jacket. 376 pages, 67 black and white photos, 2 maps and an index.
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