Friday, February 02, 2007

Flags of our Fathers

My dad got me this book for Christmas, and I read it through in about a week. It is a well-told story of the six men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima in the famous photograph that became a national symbol and ultimately, the Marine Corps memorial statue in Washington, D.C.

The book is engrossing in its detail and authoritative in style. It aims to set the record straight about the facts of the flag-raising and to memorialize the author's father, who was one of the flagraisers. It succeeds in those two goals. The author's account of his father's life and his lifelong silence about the photograph and all other aspects of Iwo Jima is eloquent. Like many father-son relationships, it is clear that in this non-fiction account, what is not said is more important than what is.

I have not seen the movie that was recently filmed based on this book's account of Iwo Jima, nor the counterpoint Clint Eastwood production, Letters from Iwo Jima. I would have liked to have seen more first-hand accounts from the Japanese side included in this book. It is very one-sided in its description of the battle, and not necessarily so. Toward the end of the book, there are a few hints that the author's father may have begun to come to terms with the Japanese side of the horrible battle. I would have liked to have seen the same willingness to try to understand the Japanese soldiers, who are mostly seen as the perpetrators of atrocities in the book, on the son's part. But perhaps that is one of the legacies of war -- an unwillingness to see history through the other side's eyes, especially when father-son loyalties are put to the test.
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