Reading guide for Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley, Ron Powers

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Flags of Our Fathers

by James Bradley, Ron Powers

Flags of Our Fathers
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  • First Published:
    May 2000, 400 pages
    Oct 2001, 384 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

The Reality of War

Social studies classes study the world’s wars and the impact war has on a global society. Students learn about ancient wars and the more modern wars that have been fought in the name of freedom. They know about the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II. Some students know about the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, and the Persian Gulf War. Before the events of September 11, 2001, students in America’s schools knew little about the personal tragedies related to war. War was simply something that happened in books, in another time, and on foreign lands. Now, war surrounds them–on television, radio, and in film. Some know firsthand what it feels like to lose a parent to terrorists, and others wait eagerly in front of the television in hopes of gaining a glimpse of a family member or friend who may be in the Iraqi desert or on the streets of Baghdad. Like the main characters in the novels in this guide, the innocence of America’s children has been marked by violence. A new page of history is being written every day, and it is being done before the eyes of the world’s youngest citizens.

For this reason, it is extremely important that parents and teachers talk with children about war, and offer hope that the world might someday find a peaceful solution to global conflict. Sometimes it is difficult to find the words to explain the complex issues of war, but books are always a good way to spark understanding and conversation. This guide offers discussion for the following books: The Gadget by Paul Zindel; Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead; Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence; Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers, adapted for young people by Michael French; Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian; and For Freedom by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

Pre-Reading Activity
Engage students in a discussion about the recent war in Iraq, and how it was reported in the news. Divide the class into three groups, and assign each group one of the major newspapers or magazines to read. Ask that they read a few issues of the publications during the time of the war and take note of the major headlines, the views of the journalists, etc. Allow students time at the end of each week to share their findings. What conclusions can be drawn about the role of journalists in war?

Questions about the Book
  1. Engage the class in a discussion about the meaning of patriotism. What is the relationship between duty and patriotism?

  2. Private Tex Stanton, Second Platoon, Easy Company said, “Life was never regular again. We were changed from the day we put our feet in that sand.” (p. 69) Discuss how the Battle of Iwo Jima changed the men who fought there. Compare and contrast how each of the six flag raisers were changed.

  3. Discuss the qualities of a hero. Jack Bradley never viewed himself as a hero and felt that the real heroes of the Battle of Iwo Jima were the men who gave their lives. What role did the media play in making the six flag raisers heroes? How might these six men be considered symbols of all the heroic men who fought at Iwo Jima? In the book, James Bradley discusses the difference between a hero and a celebrity. How did President Roosevelt turn these heroes into celebrities?

  4. Discuss the meaning of the inscription “Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue” that is on the face of the bronze statue of the six flag raisers that was unveiled at Arlington National Cemetery on November 10, 1954. The three surviving flag raisers attended the unveiling ceremony. James Bradley states that after that day, “Never again would they meet, never again would they serve the photograph.” (p. 178) How had these men “served the photograph”? Discuss whether new generations who visit the bronze statue can fully understand the impact the photograph had on the American people when it was first published.

For more activities on Images of War, see these titles:
For Freedom by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Lord of the Nutcracker by Iain Lawrence, Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead, Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers adapted for young people by Michael French, The Gadget by Paul Zindel, and Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian.

Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Bantam Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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