A richly illustrated account of one of the most iconic moments in World War II.
Military historian Hammel (War in the Western Pacific, 2014, etc.) begins with his own first awareness of Joe Rosenthal’s famous photo of the flag-raising, which became the inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial sculpture. In a brief prologue, the author tells how the flag came to be raised not once but twice. He then circles back to the battle, beginning with the decision to take the volcanic island, which would give the U.S. a base for its heavy bombers within striking distance of the enemy homeland as well as capturing an integral part of the Japanese empire, an important symbolic victory. Unlike other battles in which the Japanese fought in mass “banzai” attacks, their plan here was for tenacious defense from a well-designed series of bunkers and strongholds, a plan buttressed with major reinforcements until a month before the landing. In short, the Marines were in for a brutal ordeal. Hammel profiles the men and officers of Company E, the main body involved in the capture of the mountain, and then follows the course of the battle through the flag-raising and its aftermath. Some men died on the island, others survived the war, and a few were singled out as heroes because of their parts in the flag-raising, a role they neither sought nor enjoyed. But the identities of the men involved in the iconic event were never clear until well after the war. Hammel describes the way the image of the flag-raising became a symbol of the Marines and the way the survivors eventually tried to get the full story made part of the official record. He documents this effort by including the reports of the Huly Board, which determined the facts, and the detailed photographic evidence the board worked from. Ultimately, readers receive a unique view of a key battle and learn how, years later, the story was put into proper context.
A must for World War II buffs.