Well I finally finished reading Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley and let me just say wow right now… This book is definitely a must read for everyone, no questions asked. The book is basically the story of the six men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, in particular, John Bradley (the author’s father). The book chronicles the lives of those men and why they fought. It is interesting to me that the most unanimous response given by soldiers as to why they were fighting was not “For country” or “freedom” but instead “for the guy sitting next to me”. The thought of fighting for the freedom of the United States went out the door as soon as they hit those beaches on February 19, 1945 (49 yrs. ago yesterday). As soon as they were on the beach they were fighting to protect their buddies and the guy next to them. It was about survival.
John Bradley was a Navy corpsman (basically he was a medic for the Marines) and during the battle received the Navy Cross which is second only to the Medal of Honor. It is interesting to note that more Medal of Honor’s were awarded because of action on Iwo Jima than any other battle during the war. 6,825 Americans gave their lives to take a 7.5 square mile island.
For years, John Bradley did not talk about the war, the flag raising, or the men he fought with. When he finally granted an interview, he was asked if he thought he was a hero, humbly he replied “No, the heroes are the ones who didn’t come home”. He’s right in his mind but to everyone who wasn’t there, he is just as much of hero. There are those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom of this country that we take for granted everyday.
I should note the point of the Iwo Jima invasion. The island was a stepping stone to the main objective, the Japanese homeland. It also had two airbases on it where bombers and fighters that had been damaged or had malfunctioned could land and be repaired. The island saved 2,400 B-29 crews (approximately 27,000 men).
So check the book out, you’ll see what I’m talking about. I am going to post a quote later today that is from the book that I pretty much brought a tear to my eye.