Flags of our Fathers (2006)


Introduction

Flags of Our Fathers is a 2006 American war film directed, co-produced, and scored by Clint Eastwood and written by William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis. It is based on the 2000 book of the same name written by James Bradley and Ron Powers about the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima, the five Marines and one Navy corpsman who were involved in raising the flag on Iwo Jima, and the aftereffects of that event on their lives.

The film is taken from the American viewpoint of the Battle of Iwo Jima, while its companion film, Letters from Iwo Jima, which Eastwood also directed, is from the Japanese viewpoint of the battle.

Outline

As three US servicemen – Marine Private First Class Ira Hayes, Private First Class Rene Gagnon, and Navy Corpsman John “Doc” Bradley – are feted as heroes in a war bond drive, they reflect on their experiences via flashback.

After training at Camp Tarawa in Hawaii, the 28th Marine Regiment 5th Marine Division sails to invade Iwo Jima. The Navy bombards suspected Japanese positions for three days. Sergeant Mike Strank is put in charge of Second Platoon.

The next day, 19 February 1945, the Marines land in Higgins boats and LVTs. The beaches are silent and Private First Class Ralph “Iggy” Ignatowski wonders if the defenders are all dead before Japanese heavy artillery and machine guns open fire on the advancing Marines and the Navy ships. Casualties are heavy, but the beaches are secured.

Two days later, the Marines attack Mount Suribachi under a rain of Japanese artillery and machine gun fire, as the Navy bombards the mountain. Doc saves the lives of several Marines under fire, which later earns him the Navy Cross. The mountain is eventually secured.

On 23 February, the platoon under command of Sergeant Hank Hansen reaches the top of Mount Suribachi and hoists the United States flag to cheers from the beaches and the ships. Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, who witnesses the flag raising as he lands on the beach, requests the flag for himself. Colonel Chandler Johnson decides his 2nd Battalion deserves the flag more. Rene is sent up with Second Platoon to replace the first flag with a second one for Forrestal to take. Mike, Doc, Ira, Rene, and two other Marines (Corporal Harlon Block and Private First Class Franklin Sousley) are photographed by Joe Rosenthal as they raise the second flag.

On March 1, the Second Platoon is ambushed from a Japanese machine gun nest. During the fight over the nest, Mike is hit by a US Navy shell and dies from his wounds. Later that day, Hank is shot in the chest and dies, and Harlon is killed by machine gun fire.

Two nights later, while Doc is helping a wounded Marine, Iggy is abducted by Japanese troops and dragged into a tunnel. Doc finds his viciously mangled body a few days later. On 21 March, Franklin is killed by machine gun fire and dies in Ira’s arms. Of the eight men in the squad, only three are left: Doc, Ira, and Rene. A few days after Franklin’s death, Doc is wounded by artillery fire while trying to save a fellow corpsman. He survives and is sent back home. On 26 March, the battle ends and the US Marines are victorious.

After the battle, the press gets hold of Rosenthal’s photograph. It is a huge morale booster and becomes famous. Rene is asked to name the six men in the photo; he identifies himself, Mike, Doc, and Franklin, but misidentifies Harlon as Hank. Rene eventually names Ira as the sixth man, even after Ira threatens to kill him for doing so.

Doc, Ira, and Rene are sent home as part of the seventh bond tour. When they arrive to a hero’s welcome in Washington, DC, Doc notices that Hank’s mother is on the list of mothers of the dead flag raisers. Ira angrily denounces the bond drive as a farce. The men are reprimanded by Bud Gerber of the Treasury Department, who tells them that the country cannot afford the war and if the bond drive fails, the U.S. will abandon the Pacific and their sacrifices will be for nothing. The three agree not to tell anyone that Hank was not in the photograph.

As the three are sent around the country to raise money and make speeches, Ira is guilt-ridden, faces discrimination as a Native American, and descends into alcoholism. After he throws up one night in front of General Alexander Vandegrift, commandant of the Marine Corps, he is sent back to his unit and the bond drive continues without him.

After the war, the three survivors return to their homes. Ira still struggles with alcoholism and is never able to escape his unwanted fame. One day after being released from jail, he hitchhikes over 1,300 miles to Texas to see Harlon Block’s family. He tells Harlon’s father that his son was indeed at the base of the flag in the photograph. In 1954, the USMC War Memorial is dedicated and the three flag raisers see each other one last time. In 1955, Ira dies of exposure after a night of drinking. That same year, Doc drives to the town where Iggy’s mother lives to tell her how Iggy died, though it is implied that he does not tell her the truth. Rene attempts a business career, but finds that the opportunities and offers he received during the bond drive are rescinded. He spends the rest of his life as a janitor. Doc, by contrast, is successful, buying a funeral home. In 1994, on his deathbed, he tells his story to his son, James, and in a final flashback to 1945, the men swim in the ocean after raising the flags.

Film Inspiration

Flags of Our Fathers (2000) is a New York Times bestselling book by James Bradley with Ron Powers about the six United States Marines who would eventually be made famous by Joe Rosenthal’s lauded photograph of the flag raising at Iwo Jima, one of the costliest and most horrifying battles of World War II’s Pacific Theatre.

The book, published in May 2000 by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, spent 46 weeks on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, spending six weeks at number one. Shortly after the book’s publication, Steven Spielberg acquired the option on the film rights for DreamWorks Pictures.

The book follows the lives of the six flag-raisers through their early lives of innocence, military training, fierce combat and afterwards, when they were sent on tours to raise money for war bonds.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director: Clint Eastwood.
  • Producers: Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, and Steven Spielberg.
  • Screenplay: William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis.
  • Music: Kyle Eastwood, and Michael Stevens.
  • Cinematography: Tom Stern.
  • Editos: Joel Cox.
  • Production: DreamWorks Pictures, Malpaso Productions, and Amblin Entertainment.
  • Distributors: Paramount Pictures (US/Bahamas) and Warner Bros Pictures (International).
  • Release Date: 20 October 2006 (US).
  • Running Time: 132 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

YouTube Link

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.