Saturday, October 21

Horrors and Heroes

Joe Rosenthal's chance picture of the second raising of the Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima has given him legendary status, albeit unwanted in his humble opinion. Joe has died, along with John Bradley, one of the six men in the picture. Three of them later died on Iwo Jima; John and two other survived. Taken back to the states to help raise war bond money, these men accompanied the photo as they spoke to audiences around the country.

I think John is the one who hated doing it. He went on to work as an undertaker at a funeral home in Antigo, Wisconsin. A fellow who works at his 'establishment' commented on the movie and John today on the Nikon photo forum I frequent:

I just got back from seeing Flags of our Fathers. Its really amazing how powerful an image can become. The right picture at the right time can become an unstopable force.

Its a little strange seeing this book made into a movie. It was a little strange all the attention little old Antigo WI got when the book came out, and seeing John Bradley depicted on screen in the theature located one block from the funeral home he ran until his death in 1994... Just a little bit weird.

John never would have wanted that book written, much less a movie made about it. Two of his sons, Tom and Steve run the funeral home now. The original building was tore down ten or eleven years ago, and a new one built on the other side of town. I've worked for them for awhile now, doing memorial videos and a few other things around the funeral home. (they dont pay enough, LOL!) They have this little statue of the flag raising in an alcove off the main hallway. A couple of times people stopped in to get their picture taken by the statue. We would just kind of roll our eyes after they left.

But anyway, getting back to the subject at hand. I think the movie did a good job of showing how powerful an image can be. And how missunderstood.

And from Wikipedia:

Following his appearances at the last bond tour, John Bradley married his childhood sweetheart Betty Van Gorp, settled down in Antigo, and had eight children. He fulfilled his life-long dream by buying and managing his own funeral parlor, but was tormented by memories of the war; Betty says he wept in his sleep for several years and kept a large knife in a dresser drawer for "protection".

Memorial plaque placed by his family on the spot of the flag raisingHis son James Bradley (who wrote a book about the flag-raisers in 2000 titled Flags of Our Fathers) speculated that his father's determined silence and discomfort on the subject of his role in the Battle of Iwo Jima was largely due to memories of John's best friend, Ralph "Iggy" Ignatowski. Ignatowski was captured, dragged into a tunnel by Japanese soldiers during the battle, and was later found with his eyes, ears, and fingernails removed, his teeth smashed, the back of his head caved in, multiple bayonet wounds to the abdomen, and his severed genitalia stuffed into his mouth. Bradley's recollections of discovering and taking care of Ignatowski's remains haunted him until his death.

Ordinary men doing the extaordinary with fear, trembling and an understanding that they might die in battle. It was a time lie face down in the sand, praying to God for mercy.

No comments:

Post a Comment