Saturday, February 19, 2005

Iwo Jima: 60 years ago today

The assault on Iwo Jima must be almost unimaginable to most younger Americans -- the stuff of Hollywood, on an epic scale and full of larger-than-life heroes. Even the famous photo reproduced at right has this unreal quality. And by today's standards the statistics are also hard to accept: almost 7,000 Americans died in this single stupendous battle, and almost 20,000 more were injured. These figures dwarf the casualty figures for the entire war with Iraq...and yet they were but a single battle (albeit one of the most intense) of the much larger war.

Many of the young Americans I work with are sadly ignorant of history. I know several people who had never heard of Stalin until I raised the topic, and others who knew Iwo Jima only through the famous photograph. They had no idea of the sacrifice their parents' or grandparents' generation made in the Great War. Worse, they had no deeply felt belief in what Ronald Reagan unashamedly labeled the evil in the world. This scares me profoundly, as I believe folks this ignorant of historical evil are much more likely to take the road of appeasement...

Hat tip to PowerLine for two links to good articles on Iwo Jima here and here.

Contemporaries of my father (who was in the European theatre) fought in this horrific battle. My uncle was on Saipan during this period, and through his writings (which I am now the custodian of) I have gotten a good picture of what the great Pacific battles were like for the support troops, which is what my uncle mainly was. But most of what I've learned about Iwo Jima comes from reading several books about it, most recently Flags of our Fathers: Heroes of Iwo Jima, by James Bradley and Ron Powers. This is an excellent book; I learned a lot from it, and I was greatly moved by some of the stories it contains.

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