Summary and book reviews of Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley

Flags of Our Fathers

by James Bradley, Ron Powers

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

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Book Summary

Captures the glory, the triumph, the heartbreak, and the legacy of the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima and the story of the 3 who survived - including Bradley's father.

In this unforgettable chronicle of perhaps the most famous moment in American military history, James Bradley has captured the glory, the triumph, the heartbreak, and the legacy of the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. Here is the true story behind the immortal photograph that has come to symbolize the courage and indomitable will of America.

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 flag raisers has written a powerful account of six very different 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 his 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.

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 have ever 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.

IT BEGAN EERILY, IN THE NIGHT A dark Pacific sky cut by hellish red comets, rising and descending in clusters of three, each descent followed by a distant explosion. Sleepless young Marines stood watching atop their LST's, thirteen miles offshore.

The date was February 19, 1945.

Over 70,000 Marines-the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Divisions-massed in the ships that had finally arrived at Island X, ready to hit the narrow two-mile beach in successive phases. Awaiting them, dug into the island and out of sight, 22,000 elite Japanese-the Rising Sun-who understood that they were to die.

The first wave of Marines and armored vehicles hit the shores. The vehicles bogged down immediately in the absorbent maw. The troops moved around them and began their cautious climb, unshielded, up the terraces.

It was all so quiet at first.

Smoke and earsplitting noise suddenly filled the universe. The almost unnoticed blockhouses on the flat ground facing the ocean began raking the ...

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 ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

The New York Times

[O]ne of the most instructive and moving books on war and its aftermath that we are likely to see, in part because it is instructive and moving in unexpected ways.

Publishers Weekly

A simple thesis emerges from all the detail worked into this touching group portrait, in a comment by John Bradley: "The heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who didn't come back." No reader will forget the lesson.

Author Blurb Stephen Ambrose
The best battle book I have ever read.

Reader Reviews

G. W. Nash

The Real Sands of Iwo Jima
As an avid WWII history buff and movie viewer, I was very moved and inspired after reading this account of the Iwo Jima campaign. As I read more and more and got to know the real characters, I was reminded of the 1949 movie, "The Sands of Iwo ...   Read More

jacob chastain

Flags Of Our Fathers
This is the best book I have ever read. I have read it three times now and it never gets old.

anonymous

very good book
This is by far the best book I have ever read. I am speechless.

J-Kax

Nonfiction Surprise!
I absolutely could not stand nonfiction novels. They killed me from the inside out.and now that I've read this book, I've changed that much at least. Very good book and a heart felt story line from the beginning.Purchase and Enjoy!!!

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