Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley

James Bradley catches the brutality of the battle for the miserable island of Iwo Jima, the ordinariness of the young Americans who were to capture it, and the barbaric Bushido code of the Japanese to hold their sacred ground. Six young Americans, who were immortalized in a photo of the raising of the flag, are forever remembered in their family and hometown contexts, including a history of Arizona’s Pima Indians. Sometimes in the same paragraph, Bradley refers to his father as “Doc,” sometimes as “my father.” Since his father wouldn’t talk about Iwo when he was alive, his son was compelled to learn all he could after John Bradley died. A remarkable story that must not be forgotten.

Author’s Note

In February 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf at Iwo Jima—and into history. Through a hail of machine-gun and mortar fire that left the beaches strewn with comrades, they battled to the island’s highest peak. And after climbing through a landscape of hell itself, they raised a flag.

Now the son of one of the flagraisers has written a powerful account of six very different young men who came together in a moment that will live forever.

To his family, John Bradley never spoke of the photograph or the war. But after his death at age seventy, his family discovered closed boxes of letters and photos. In Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley draws on those documents to retrace the lives of his father and the men of Easy Company. Following these men’s paths to Iwo Jima, James Bradley has written a classic story of the heroic battle for the Pacific’s most crucial island—an island riddled with Japanese tunnels and 22,000 fanatic defenders who would fight to the last man.

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But perhaps the most interesting part of the story is what happened after the victory. The men in the photo—three were killed during the battle—were proclaimed heroes and flown home, to become reluctant symbols. For two of them, the adulation was shattering. Only James Bradley’s father truly survived, displaying no copy of the famous photograph in his home, telling his son only: “The real heroes of Iwo Jima were the guys who didn’t come back.”

Few books ever have captured the complexity and furor of war and its aftermath as well as Flags of Our Fathers. A penetrating, epic look at a generation at war, this is history told with keen insight, enormous honesty, and the passion of a son paying homage to his father. It is the story of the difference between truth and myth, the meaning of being a hero, and the essence of the human experience of war.

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This wonderful story about some students visiting the Iwo Jima Memorial and meeting author James Bradley.

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Personal History

Two days before the famous flag-raising on Iwo Jima, Lt. Daniel S. Wilson became MIA over Schwanberg, Austria, in a P-38 Lightning.

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Lt. Dan Wilson at his base in Italy.

His older brother, CEM Donald W. Wilson, was on the crew of the USS Hancock (CV-19), a carrier in the Pacific which was in combat against Japanese home islands.

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Donald Wilson, taken at the end of the war, just before the Japanese signed the surrender papers.

 

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