Book Review

Flags of Our Fathers is a dramatic and shocking story of six flag-raisers written by James Bradley and Ron Rovers. The book impressed the United States as well as the whole world with its realistic depiction of the meaning of the Second World War for the soldiers. The book reveals the story of five Marines and a Navy Corpsman that attacked Iwo Jima, became witnesses to the humiliating and terrible battle, and raised the flag of the United States over the Mount Suribashi. The authors expose the whole life of men starting from their childhood and ending with what happened to them after the War and how the battle on Iwo Jima affected six fellows.

 
 

The author of the book, James Bradley, was influenced by the experience and life of his father, John, who was one of the flag-raisers but preferred to remain silent about the Iwo Jima battle. The former corpsman was not proud of his past and of the flag he raised. He avoided any interviews and speeches about those events. He even did not mention to his family that he had received the Navy Cross for his heroism. Only after the death of the father, James decided to discover what was behind the silence and grief of Iwo Jima and what was hidden behind the nice story of six flag-raisers on the photograph. Reinterpretation and misunderstanding of the history, endless and inhumane deaths, the pain of mothers, and inner emptiness of the survivors and national heroes were the reality of that dreadful war. John Bradley, Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, Mike Strank, Harlon Block, and Franklin Sousley became the victims not only of the war but also of the misinformed society.

While collecting information mostly from the letters of Iwo Jima battle participants, James discovered numerous tragedies and hatred which were skillfully hidden by the US media. The fake history, which was convenient for the government and was spread among the Americans, ruined the lives of the soldiers concealing real heroes of the war and awful realities of Iwo Jima. The author concentrates on depicting how the War, death, and killing influence human life, how dire they can be, and how boys become men who witnessed hundreds of deaths. James Bradley and the coauthor show that terror and violence of the Iwo Jima battle were disguised and prettified by the media because the heroism of soldiers was not praised enough, and the tears of mothers have never wiped.

After the death of the father, James Bradley decided to start his research about those tragic pages of the war. He and his mother, Betty, went to Iwo Jima to explore the decorations of the battle. The author searched and read the letters of the soldiers who participated in the fight on the island to create vivid and realistic portraits of six flag-raisers. Undoubtedly, the descriptions can be different from the real personalities of six men. These letters became the best background and foundation for representing all the terror on Iwo Jima. They outlined the other heroes of the war and depicted the feeling and inner states of the main characters.

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The central theme of the book is the influence of the media on the society. Heroism appeared to be misunderstood and misrepresented by the media in a way suitable for the government. Life of three flag-raisers after the war underlines what the fake history and lies meant to them. The men cried in sleep, suffered from painful memories and nightmares. John, Ira, and Rene felt guilty that they were chosen among thousands of brave and dedicated soldiers. The author recollected the episode when his father said him that he was not a hero, heroes were those who did not come back. The photograph of six flag-raisers became a symbol of the victory while the fight still continued and people were dying. The picture became the embodiment of manipulation and lie provided by the means of information. The theme of religion is also revealed in the book, since all six men were influenced and connected strongly to it. Bradley concentrates also on the problem of an individual versus society describing the manipulated and brainwashed Japanese soldiers. They only understood their humanity during the last minutes of their lives. Another major topic of the book is the connection of the men to their mothers and the grief of the women when their children did not come back. Regardless of the nationality, race or citizenship, the last word of all soldiers was “mother.” Therefore, Flag of Our Fathers is a path that a person took while turning from a boy to a man who experienced the most deplorable events.

The book is a masterful combination of the recollected events of the Second World War and the analysis of the author. Bradley uses both third and first narration to present different perspectives on the history. There are many rhetorical questions in the book as well as short sentences to emphasize the importance of a particular episode. The book impresses the reader with its details of the battle, with heroic sacrifices of the soldiers, and with the grief of their mothers. To highlight the influence of the war on a person, the author presents the lives of flag-raisers before, during and after the war. Throughout the whole book, Bradley expresses strong criticism of the war and of the media for caricaturing and distorting the reality.

Flags of Our Fathers is a precious and educative book for every person not only in the United Stated but also outside the country. It teaches the readers about terror and violence of the war, illustrates that all people are heroes, and, finally, exposes the harmful influence of the media. The manipulation of people by media is extremely topical for the modern society which is highly dependent and governed by new communication means. Flags of Our Fathers helps humans to understand what war is, why it should be avoided, and how to reveal the real heroes of our past.

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