IWO JIMA by Karal Ann Marling


Monuments, Memories, and the American Hero
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 An unusual exploration by Marling (George Washington Slept Here, 1988; Art History/Univ. of Minn.) and Wetenhall (Curator/Birmingham Museum) of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima and the use to which that incident was put both during and after the war. As the potential solution to the problem of the long distances involved in bombing Japan, the American attack on Iwo Jima came as no surprise. But the taking of the island proved a formidable objective, with 21,000 Japanese troops entrenched in an underground network of defensive installations. Casualties were heavy, but by the end of the fourth day a 40-man patrol from Easy Company managed to fight its way to the top of Mt. Suribachi, dominating the island, and raise the flag. At that point, Japanese defenders, maddened by the sight, tried to challenge them, but were driven back to their bunkers. The flag was an inspiration to the American troops, but it was small and not easily visible, so the company colonel ordered a larger one run up so ``every son of a bitch on this whole cruddy island can see it.'' It was this second flag- raising that was captured in the celebrated photograph by Joe Rosenthal of AP, but, as the authors explain, the truth of its being only a replacement effort was lost in what followed. Under the news management of the Marines--who knew a good thing when they saw it--the politicians (who needed protection against the heavy losses that had been incurred), the war-bonds salesmen (who raised money), the arts establishment (which wanted commissions) and the public (which craved heroes) all ironically found the genuine heroism of the assault and the subsequent fighting embodied in a moment that had, in truth, not been memorable. Overextended at 312 pages, even with the wealth of accompanying photographs--but fascinating nonetheless.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-674-46980-1
Page count: 312pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1991


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