Semper Fi, Marines

Here’s two thoughts about the battle at Iwo Jima first posted here in 2005 and 2006.

Flags of our Fathers

John Bradley, Franklin Sousley, Harlon Block, Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon and Mike Strank are the Navy corpsman and Marines who, on 23-February-1945, raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi. It’s a famous picture.

Still, Suribachi’s island wasn’t declared secure until 26-March, and it was 7-April before American fighter planes took off from the refurbished runway so many had died to secure.

Describing the Americans who fought this battle, Admiral Nimitz uttered the words that appear on the Arlington Cemetery monument to that flag raising: “Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue”.

Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal said that “the raising of that flag on Suribachi means there will be a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.”

Thank you Marines. Semper Fi. 440 years to go; though I expect you’ve extended that a bit in the interim.

Today is the anniversary of the beginning of the death-struggle for Iwo Jima, in which over 2,000 Marines died in the first 18 hours of fighting.

In the next 36 days Marines had a casualty every 2 minutes. 6,821 Americans and over 20,000 Japanese died. Of 353 Medals of Honor awarded during WWII, 27 were given for heroism on Iwo Jima; 13 posthumously.

And this was not the end of the Pacific war. In fact, it was just the first battle on Japanese soil.

My appreciation of this battle, and my gratitude to those who fought it, grew immensely when I read a book given to me by a former Marine. That book is Flags of our Fathers, by James Bradley.

Bradley discovered that his father, a Navy corpsman who survived the battle of Iwo Jima, had not only been awarded a Navy Cross for his efforts there, but was one of the men in the famous picture of the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi. He discovered this only after his father had died, as he sorted through his father’s papers.

Danielle Girdano is another person belatedly aware of her father’s contribution on Iwo Jima.

18 year old private first class Daniel Girdano, 4th Marine Division, 24th Regiment, 1st Battalion A Company, first saw Iwo Jima’s beaches on 19-February-1945. His daughter learned what really happened there almost by accident. She bought a vial of Iwo Jima ash for her father as a Christmas present in 2003, and he could not speak of his experiences still. “He saw this vial of ash, and this man who I’ve known my entire life as the Rock of Gibraltar, broke down,” she said.

What she learned from her small gift resulted in the Legend of Heroes Memorial. A monument in glass, metal and wood; it has the faces of 10 Iwo Jima vets engraved on it. Her father is one of them. It is beginning a 49 state tour this weekend.

It is inscribed, “Boys became men, men became heroes, heroes became legends.”

I am cowed by the modesty, even self-effacement, of men like Bradley’s and Girdano’s fathers; though it is typical of those WWII vets who saw soul-wrenching combat. Part of it is certainly the modesty becoming of a different era, but I think most of it arises from the pain their experiences brought. (Note to John Kerry – your eagerness, sustained for 30 years, to capitalize on your experiences of “atrocities” in Viet Nam is one of the reasons you were not credible.)

I recommend Flags of our Fathers, but for a brief tour you should read Arthur Herman’s piece here.

Herman also invokes contemporary issues via a perspective on the doubt and debate surrounding WWII strategies that most of us now think of as uncontroversial.

Posted by Hershblogger at 2/19/2005 06:46:00 PM


Here’s look at how the story of Iwo Jima would be reported today.

Aid and comfort

The reporting on recent casualties in Afghanistan is even more abominable than I noted on Friday.

Bill Roggio reports:

The news reports of a major Taliban offensive in southeastern Afghanistan are inaccurate, as Coalition offensives and Taliban attacks have been lumped together to give the impression of a coordinated Taliban assault in multiple provinces.

…It is important to understand how the fighting was initiated, as the current reporting is giving the impression of a coordinated Taliban uprising. This provides the Taliban with a propaganda victory, as their power is perceived as far greater than it actually is, which can negatively influence the government and peoples of the Coalition forces serving in Afghanistan. The narrow passage of the extension of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan (by a 149-145 vote in Parliament) illustrates the fragile nature of the support for the mission in some Western nations.

Of course it is important to understand the nature of the combat, and if the PNB press were as dedicated to reporting facts as they claim to be, we might even have had information that reflected reality. Instead we have stories that reflect the predetermined attitudes of the left. To wit; the Taliban is gaining strength and resistance by the West is ultimately futile. Nichola Goddard’s life was wasted.

I want to know, if we have Al-Jazeera, why do we need the AP?

If the AP had been constituted the same way in World War II as it is today, the reporting from Iwo Jima would have had headlines screaming; “2,000 Marines die in the first 18 hours of fighting”.

The flag was raised on Mt. Suribachi on day 4 of the attack. The battle went on for another 32 days. Headlines would have been “A dead Marine every 2 minutes for 36 days” and “Marines suffer 6,821 deaths. Some ask – For what?”.

The strategic value of Iwo Jima would never have been mentioned, and the fact that 20,000 fanatical enemy soldiers died would have been covered by a story headlined – “Japanese widows grieve”.

Here’s an example of how it was actually reported. Don’t miss the audio link.

Iwo Jima was not the end of the Pacific war. In fact, it was the first battle on Japanese soil. We finished the War with Japan on August 15, 1945 – nearly 4 years after Pearl Harbor.

The Battle of Afghanistan will not end the War against Islamofascism – unless we lose. Whether we still have the will to win even this battle is an open question, in part because that will is being undermined by the AP’s characterizations.

H/T SDA, where it is noted that Roggio is going to be embedded with Canadian Forces in Afghanistan starting next week. I’ve added an additional Counterterrorism Blog link to the blogroll for your convenience.

Posted by Hershblogger at 5/21/2006 04:15:00 PM


Finally, Democracy Project is recommending a National Geographic 3-hour special tonight: “Inside The Vietnam War”

CORRECTION, that was the 18th. It shows again on Sunday and Monday the 24th and 25th at 4PM.

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