"War is hell," they say. So is war propaganda.
Both of these observations are powerfully illustrated in Clint Eastwood's new film Flags of Our Fathers, which is based on James Bradley's book about the lives of the six U.S. Marines who appear in the ubiquitous photo called "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima."
As the film opens, we watch three servicemen—John Bradley (Ryan Philippe), Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), and Ira Hayes (Adam Beach)—climb a steep slope. When they reach the peak, they triumphantly lift an American flag.
But this is not the moment in that famous 1945 photo taken by AP reporter Joe Rosenthal atop Mt. Surabachi on a small Japanese island. No, this is a recreation on a peak made of papier-mâché, staged for a cheering crowd.
The Marines are standing in Chicago's Soldier Field, under a sky full of festive fireworks, waving to the Americans who have taken such comfort from that dramatic black-and-white portrait. They're taking part in a vigorous military propaganda effort, persuading patriotic Americans to purchase war bonds. And it works—the cheering people open their wallets to show their support for those troops still fighting against Germany and Japan.
Rosenthal's image captured America's imagination. It inspired us to strive for victory, and brought comfort to the worried families of Marines. Thus, it was printed, imitated, and reenacted to keep spirits high—and to keep the dollars coming in. "The country was tired of war," says a retired captain (Harve Presnell) as he thinks back. "One photo, almost all on its own, turned that around."
Thus, we see Bradley, Gagnon, and Hayes, the three from the photograph who survived, welcomed as heroes for surviving the greatest siege in ...1