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“The Deed Is All, And Not The Glory”: Solving The Mystery Of The Unknown Flag Raiser Of Iwo Jima

On June 23rd, the Marine Corps publicly acknowledged that a previously unidentified Marine named Harold H. Schultz was one of the six men pictured in what is arguably the best-known image of the last century: Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the 1945 flag-raising on Iwo Jima.

In making the announcement, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller noted that while the “image is iconic and significant, to Marines it’s not about the individuals and never has been.”

As a Marine, I most certainly agree. Marines always put the mission first, fighting to win, and Rosenthal’s famous photo symbolizes everything that we believe to be right and good about our Corps. But as one of the filmmakers behind the documentary that unravels the confusion and misidentification of the flag-raisers, I also feel strongly that acknowledging Schultz—even 20 years after his death—is immensely important for America.

When the photo first appeared in newspapers across the country on Feb. 25, 1945, Marine Corps leadership must certainly have recognized the value of the image, particularly in terms of recruiting men for the planned invasion of Japan. But the idea that the figures in the photo should be identified came first from the Treasury Department, not the Marines. Rosenthal’s photo had been received as a gift by the ad men responsible for promoting “The Mighty Seventh” war loan, and they seized upon the image as precisely what was needed to sell more than $14 billion in bonds.

While the photo made Rosenthal an instant celebrity in the U.S., no one back on Iwo had given the flag-raising a second thought. In the words of retired Marine Col. Dave Severance, then a captain in command of the company that had taken Mt. Suribachi, “I don’t remember thinking of flags during the battle, because my hands were full. Until President Roosevelt sent word that he wanted to bring back the survivors of the flag-raising—for a bond tour—the business of the flags held no priority at all.”

In fact, the Marine Corps took no action to identify the men in the photo until nearly a month after the event, and only ordered the survivors home in response to what one public information officer described as “a personal request by President Roosevelt, who considered their return and public appearance a public morale factor.”

Several times over the past decade, as I pored over the images shot by the seven different photographers who were on Suribachi that day, I’ve wondered if our national leaders—particularly those closest to the president—ever paused to ask, “Is it necessary to identify these men?” It’s no secret that, in the eyes of many, the image’s power lies in the fact that the men are virtually faceless, symbolizing the sacrifices of every American who fought there. Would it not perhaps be best if they remained unknown?

But the Nation called them home anyway, putting a name to each of the figures in the photo, and ultimately casting their faces in bronze.

Despite the fact that the president had answered the question more than 70 years ago, our production team found ourselves regularly challenged with, “Does it really matter who these men were?” And in Schultz’s case, I can say with confidence it absolutely matters—though not for the same reasons cited by the president in 1945.

Schultz helped raise a flag on the fifth day of a month-long battle. It was a small thing. Yet he was captured in an image that symbolized much more, and despite what the photo would come to mean, he never said a word about it to anyone beyond his own dinner table.

Some have suggested Schultz would not be pleased to now be named. He never sought attention in life, so perhaps we should let him remain unknown? But it is precisely this reluctance to be recognized that makes him so worthy of our respect.

At one point in Goethe’s Faust, the hero argues, “The deed is all, and not the glory.” I know it only because it’s the kind of heady sentiment that resonates with warriors, and because those very words hang over the entrance of a select few U.S. military units as a reminder that those most worthy of honor are the ones who do not seek it.

Harold H. Schultz personifies this ideal: He was a Marine who answered his country’s call, served honorably in the bloodiest battle in the Corps’s 240-year history, and was immortalized in 1/400th of a second on a tiny bit of rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, seven thousand miles from his Detroit home.

Despite this, Schultz never sought glory for himself, and in so doing became worthy of our honor. That is why his name matters, and why we must remember.

 

By: Matthew W. Morgan, Lt. Col., USMC (Ret.); The Daily Beast, July 3, 2016

July 4, 2016 Posted by | Harold H. Schultz, Iwo Jima, World War II | , , , , | Leave a comment

“One Can Only Answer To Conscience”: Should America Apologize For Hiroshima?

The first flash came at 8:15 on a Monday morning. Eyewitnesses remember it as a bolt of soundless light as if the sun had somehow touched down to the Earth.

And suddenly, Hiroshima was gone.

The second flash came that Thursday morning at 11:02. Eyewitnesses recall two thumps — possibly the sound bouncing off the mountains that cradled the city — and a flash of bluish light.

And Nagasaki was decimated.

Japan surrendered the following Wednesday, ending the Second World War.

Last week, when it was announced Barack Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, everyone from Salon to the National Review raised two important questions:

Will the president apologize for what America did 71 years ago this August? Should he?

The White House says the answer to the first question is No. For whatever it’s worth, the answer to the second is, too.

It is a measure of the deep emotion this subject still stirs that that will be a controversial and divisive opinion. Many good and moral people will find it abhorrent. Of course, the opposite opinion would also have been controversial and divisive and would have appalled other people, equally good, equally moral.

In the end, then, one can only answer to conscience, and this particular conscience is disinclined to second guess the long-ago president and military commanders who felt the bombs might obviate the need to invade the Japanese home islands at a ruinous cost in American lives. Remember that the Japanese, inebriated by the “bushido” warrior code under which surrender equals shame and dishonor, had refused to capitulate, though defeat had long been a foregone conclusion.

Indeed, even after Hiroshima was leveled, it still took that nation nine days to give up.

That said, there is a more visceral reason the answer to the second question must be No: Any other answer would defame Americans who endured unimaginable cruelty at Japanese hands.

Should America apologize?

Ask Ray “Hap” Halloran, a B-29 navigator from Cincinnati who was beaten, stoned, starved, stripped naked and displayed in a cage at the Tokyo Zoo.

Ask Lester Tenney, a tanker from Chicago whose sleep was forever raddled with nightmares of a twitching, headless corpse — a man he saw decapitated in the death march on Bataan.

And by all means, ask Forrest Knox, a sergeant from Janesville, Wisconsin. He was trapped with 500 other prisoners in the hold of a Japanese freighter where the heat topped 120 degrees and there was barely any water. Some of the men broke out in gibbering, howling fits of madness, prompting a Japanese threat to close off the hatch through which their meager air came if there was not silence.

The maddened men could not be reasoned with. So American men killed American men. Knox saw this. And participated. And for years afterward, he was haunted by dead men walking the streets of Janesville.

Should America apologize? No.

This was not slavery. This was not the Trail of Tears. This was not the incarceration of Japanese Americans. This was not, in other words, a case of the nation committing human-rights crimes against innocent peoples.

No, this was war, a fight for survival against a ruthless aggressor nation. Japan committed unspeakable atrocities. America did the same. Such is the nature of war. Seven decades later, the idea of an apology feels like moral impotence, a happy face Band-Aid that denies the awful immensity of it all.

There are two words that should be spoken, in fact, reverently whispered, with regard to Hiroshima and they are not “I’m sorry.” No, the only words that matter are this promise and prayer:

Never again.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 15, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Nuclear Weapons, World War II | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Tragic History Of Race Wars”: 70 Years After A Flash Of Soundless Light Blasted Away 60,000 Lives

He wanted to start a race war.

That, you will recall, was what authorities say white supremacist Dylann Roof had in mind when he shot up a storied African-American church in June. It might have surprised him to learn that we’ve already had a race war.

No, that’s not how one typically thinks of World War II, but it takes only a cursory consideration of that war’s causes and effects to make the case. Germany killed 6 million Jews and rampaged through Poland and the Soviet Union because it considered Jews and Slavs subhuman. The Japanese stormed through China and other Asian outposts in the conviction that they were a superior people and that Americans, as a decadent and mongrel people, could do nothing about it.

Meantime, this country was busy imprisoning 120,000 of its citizens of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps and plunging into a war against racial hatred with a Jim Crow military. The American war effort was undermined repeatedly by race riots — whites attacking blacks at a shipyard in Mobile, white servicemen beating up Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles, to name two examples.

So no, it is not a stretch to call that war a race war.

It ended on August 15, 1945. V-J — Victory over Japan — Day was when the surrender was announced, the day of blissfully drunken revelry from Times Square in New York to Market Street in San Francisco. But for all practical purposes, the war had actually ended nine days before — 70 years ago Thursday — in a noiseless flash of light over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. One person who survived — as at least 60,000 people would not — described it as a “sheet of sun.”

The destruction of Hiroshima by an atomic bomb — Nagasaki followed three days later — did not just end the war. It also ushered in a new era: the nuclear age. To those of us who were children then, nuclear power was what turned Peter Parker into a human spider and that lizard into Godzilla.

It was also what air-raid sirens were screaming about when the teacher told you to get down under your desk, hands clasped behind your neck. We called them “drop drills.” No one ever explained to us how putting an inch of laminated particle board between you and a nuclear explosion might save you. None of us ever thought to ask. We simply accepted it, went to school alongside this most terrifying legacy of the great race war, and thought nothing of it.

The world has seen plenty of race wars — meaning tribalistic violence — before and since 1945. Ask the Armenians, the Tutsis, the Darfurians. Ask the Congolese, the Cambodians, the Herero. Ask the Cherokee. The childish urge of the human species to divide itself and destroy itself has splashed oceans of blood across the history of the world.

The difference 70 years ago was the scope of the thing — and that spectacular ending. For the first time, our species now had the ability to destroy itself. We were still driven by the same childish urge. Only now, we were children playing with matches.

This is the fearsome reality that has shadowed my generation down seven decades, from schoolchildren doing drop drills to grandparents watching grandchildren play in the park. And the idea that we might someday forge peace among the warring factions of the planet, find a way to help our kind overcome tribal hatred before it’s too late, has perhaps come to seem idealistic, visionary, naïve, a tired ’60s holdover, a song John Lennon once sang that’s nice to listen to but not at all realistic.

Maybe it’s all those things.

Though 70 years after a flash of soundless light blasted away 60,000 lives, you have to wonder what better options we’ve got. But then, I’m biased.

You see, I have grandchildren playing in the park.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald, August 3, 2015

August 10, 2015 Posted by | Race War, White Supremacy, World War II | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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