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A Real Man Raises the Flag

Dear Josh,

In World War Two, there was a major battle fought over the control of a strategic island called Iwo Jima. The Department of the Navy described the importance of this battle like this:

“Iwo Jima, which means Sulfur Island, was strategically important as an air base for fighter escorts supporting long-range bombing missions against mainland Japan. Because of the distance between mainland Japan and U.S. bases in the Mariana Islands, the capture of Iwo Jima would provide an emergency landing strip for crippled B-29s returning from bombing runs. The seizure of Iwo would allow for sea and air blockades, the ability to conduct intensive air bombardment and to destroy the enemy’s air and naval capabilities. The seizure of Iwo Jima was deemed necessary, but the prize would not come easy. The fighting that took place during the 36-day assault would be immortalized in the words of Commander, Pacific Fleet/Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who said, “Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” To the Japanese leadership, the capture of Iwo Jima meant the battle for Okinawa, and the invasion of Japan itself, was not far off.”


The third characteristic that Mr. Lewis refers to in his list is a real man leads courageously. Courage has been defined as taking action in spite of your fear. Everybody get afraid. The key to being a man is doing something even when you are afraid. In the picture above you see a group of soldiers that were in this battle on Iwo Jima. Listen how John Bradley describes the morning of the flag raising

*John Bradley (second from the right as you’re looking at the picture)
I was attached to the 5th Marine Division on Iwo Jima and I was a member of the 28th Marine Regiment who raised the American flag on the highest point on that island which is Mount Suribachi. The company that I was assigned to hit the beach, (we were in the 9th wave); we hit the beach approximately H-Hour plus 45, which would be 45 minutes after H-hour [H-Hour was scheduled for 9:00 a.m.; the first assault wave of armored tracked landing vehicles began landing at 8:59 a.m. on 19 Feb. 1945]. When we hit the beach I was a little bit too busy to do any sight seeing at the time because we had a lot of casualties around the beach. In our company we went right up in the front lines about 45 minutes after we bit the beach and we stayed there. The 28th Marines sector of that island was the southern tip of Iwo Jima which Mount Suribachi was on.

In the morning of D plus 4 [23 Feb.] we organized a patrol of approximately 40 men [from Company E]. And myself and another hospital corpsmen by the name of Zimik (?), Pharmacist’s Mate, 2/c [Second Class] were the [medical] corpsmen attached to that patrol. At that time we didn’t know if we were going to be able to plant the American flag on the top of Mount Suribach. but previous to that the Navy [warships] gave the mountain a terrific bombarding, assisted by the Navy, Army and Marine Corps fighter planes.

We started up the mountain immediately after the Naval barrage and plane strafing was over and we reached the top. And I might add that the reason we reached the top of Mount Suribachi without a single enemy shot being fired was because the Japs were still in their caves waiting for the bombardment to be lifted. When we reached the top we formed our battle line [the platoon moved from the column formation used to climb the mountain trail to one with the squads and fireteams on line] and we all went over the top [attacked] together and much to our surprise we didn’t find a Jap in sight. If one Jap had been up there manning one of his guns I think he could have pretty well taken care of our 40-man patrol.

Well, the minute we got up on top we set our line of fire [defensive perimeter firing positions] up, the Lieutenant in charge placed the machine guns where he wanted them, had our rifle men spotted [positioned] and immediately we sent patrols to the right and to the left [on the slopes]. We went up the mountain almost in the middle so consequently we sent patrols around to the right and left to take care of any Japs that might come out. When we got there I was with the group that swung to the left and immediately the Lieutenant sent a man around to look for a piece of staff [i.e., a flagpole] that we could put the American flag on. And the Japs had some old pipes that were laying around there, they used these pipes to run water down below the mountain. And we used this Jap pipe and we attached the American flag on there and we put it up. And Joe Rosenthal happened to be there at the right time. He came up a little while after we were on top and much to his surprise the picture that is now so famous….the Flag Raising on Mount Suribachi.

After the flag was raised we went back to work taking care of [i.e., killing] the Japs that were here and there and we found many of them in caves. In fact in one cave we counted 142 Japs. And the flame throwers did a fine job on top of the mountain. We tried to talk them out. They wouldn’t come out so then we used the flame throwers as a last resort. There were numerous caves all. around there and we didn’t have one single casualty on top of that mountain. [Flame throwers were first used in modern warfare by the Germans in World War I. The flame throwers used by the Marines in this action were carried by one Marine on his back and shot a stream of flaming fuel – standard gasoline or thickened “napalm” gasoline – from 20-40 yards against enemy caves/pillboxes to kill the enemy by burning, suffocation, or shock.]

Josh, I hope you never have to experience the horror of war. But if you do I pray that you will have the courage to raise the flag. Most men don’t go to physical war, but there are many wars that we wage in our personal lives, in our jobs, in our ministries, with our families and in our communities that require us to lead and to lead with courage. Raise the flag my boy, don’t let it hit the ground. Don’t give up just because something is hard. The greatest victories you will have in life will come after much hardship and dogged determination on your part. The greatest things in life require hard work and don’t come easy. I know you have what it takes to stand up and raise the flag.

Love,

Dad

*Recollections of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima by Pharmacist Mate Second Class John H. Bradley, USN, with the 5th Marine Division. Adapted from John Bradley interview in box 3 of World War II Interviews, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center.  

You can read the rest of the account of the battle at http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/battleiwojima.htm
 
Letters to Josh is a series of letters written from a dad to his son Josh trying to capture some of the important life lessons he wanted to pass on. These letters are a bit random in nature but each is written to address a key issue in the development of a young man. These letters are written from a very imperfect father whose love knows no bounds for his son. These letters are shared with you (the reader) only because we hope that the things we are learning
and thinking through will help you and your sons.
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