The Imperial Cruise to Mount Suribachi and Okinawa
A Summer of Reading, Revisionism and Introspection
Richard J. Garfunkel
June 23, 2010
James Bradley, with his latest book, The Imperial Cruise, has woven an eye-opening, unforgettable tale of deceit, racism, bravado, warmongering and misplaced jingoism at the feet of one of our most revered presidents, Theodore Roosevelt. With his earlier book, Flag of Our Fathers, he has established book ends to our Pacific foreign policy from the 1880’s through the end of World War II. This summer, the long-awaited series, the HBO production of The Pacific, premiered. It was based on a number of books written by veterans of some specific Pacific campaigns which included; Guadalcanal, Peleliu and Okinawa. In a way this series was able to complement Bradley’s Flag of Our Father’s which told the story of the fight for Iwo Jima. I was given a copy of Flag of Our Fathers, on the occasion of my 55th birthday on May 2, 2000, by my daughter Dana. Almost six months later, to the day, I attended a talk and a book-signing given by the author James Bradley at Manhattanville College. I never forgot his riveting and inspirational talk about the historical event that took place that day on the rim of Mount Suribachi. Bradley’s father and other intrepid Marines raised “Old Glory” to the excitement and adulation of all the men and sailors who looked upward from the beach and the fleet. Of course, the reasons the Marines had clawed their way up Mount Suribachi and had fought across the Pacific are generally well-known. After the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, we were thrust into World War II and under the inspired political and strategic leadership of President Franklin Delano and the tactical command of General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, our bloody march to Tokyo Bay was planned and accomplished. But, as most of us know, the price was very high and paid in blood and treasure.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, along with subsequent and immediate aggression upon our bases the Philippines brought us into World War II. Few in America would have believed that a relatively small country like Japan would have the audacity, no less the skills, logistics and bravery to take on the United States. Most Americans thought that our next fight would be with Nazi Germany and that “freedom of the seas” could be the same excuse in the 1940’s as it was in Woodrow Wilson’s time. Japan and the Japanese were always looked down upon through numerous caricatures that portrayed them as buck-teethed, near sighted, devious, and tiny. They were thought of by many as a sub-human specie, and ironically, in the face of all their early successes in the Pacific and the reality that they were brave and tenacious fighters, this image of stayed with most Americans. It took a number of Pacific battles before the American public grudgingly had greater appreciation for their military and human skills. We as a people had been ignoring Asia and the Pacific for many years. Even with the Japanese conquering of Manchuria, the Panay Incident and the invasion and occupation of most of China’s eastern provinces and cities, most Americans believed that the vast Pacific Ocean, guarded by our fleet would always protect us. As a matter of policy, the United States, since January 1933, before the inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in March of that year, had adopted what has been called the Stimson Doctrine. The Stimson Doctrine was a policy of the United States government, which articulated in a note of January 10, 1933, to Japan and China, the non-recognition of international territorial changes that were executed by force. The doctrine was an application of the principle of ex injuria jus non oritur. Named after Henry L. Stimson, United States Secretary of State in the Hoover Administration (1929–1933), the policy was directed at Japan's unilateral seizure of Manchuria in northeastern China and the actions of Japanese soldiers at Mukden (now Shenyang), on September 18, 1931. Henry L. Stimson, a life-long Republican, who had a long career in government, which included an earlier stint as President William Howard Taft’s Secretary of War, would later serve as President Roosevelt’s Secretary of War. In the wake of our emergence as a belligerent in the 2nd World War, President Roosevelt created a bi-partisan cabinet and appointed to key positions, both Stimson, and the long-time Republican newspaper publisher Frank Knox as Secretary of the Navy. Knox even had been nominated for the vice-presidency, by the Republican Party, with Governor Alf Landon to run against FDR in 1936. Ironically Landon and Knox were supporters of Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party’s candidacy in 1912, as was FDR’s Secretary of the Interior, “Honest” Harold Ickes. They were the only Republicans to support Teddy Roosevelt and be nominated on a national GOP ticket. To most Americans, the rise of Japan as an aggressor state was understood and recognized, but the paradox was that we had also gone through a long period of strong cooperation. The story of that relationship and Japan’s change is explored quite thoroughly in James Bradley’s book.
Bradley, in The Imperial Cruise goes back in time to trace the beginnings of our eventual fight with Japan during World War II, and why we wound up clawing our way through bloody Pacific campaigns until his father wounds up on the summit of Mount Suribachi. He chronicles the rise of Japan from its hundreds of years of isolation, from its opening by Commodore Matthew C. Perry (Matthew Perry was the son of Navy Captain Christopher R. Perry and the younger brother of Oliver Hazard Perry.) and his heavily armed fleet in 1853 to the Treaty of Portsmouth, NH, which ended the Russo-Japanese War. The negotiations for a treaty were initiated by President Theodore Roosevelt, in May of 1905, to resolve the outstanding issues created by the overwhelming victory over Russia by Japanese forces on land and sea. Despite the international community's uproar at Roosevelt's actions, which had even been called illegal, his actions upheld exactly what had been stated as the role of a neutral state in the Hague Conference of 1899. Under the mediation of Roosevelt, peace negotiations continued despite the lack of armistice between Japan and Russia. This lack of an armistice allowed the Japanese to attack Sakhalin Island while the representatives were in mid-voyage to Portsmouth, NH and later enabled the Japanese to make new claims to the island during the negotiations.
In accordance with the Portsmouth treaty, both Japan and Russia agreed to evacuate Manchuria and return its sovereignty to China, but Japan was leased the Liaodong Peninsula (containing Port Arthur and Talien), and the Russian rail system in southern Manchuria with access to strategic natural resources. Japan also received the southern half of the Island of Sakhalin from Russia. Although Japan gained a great deal from the treaty, it was not nearly as much as the Japanese public had been led to expect, since Japan's initial negotiating position had demanded all of Sakhalin and a monetary indemnity. The Russians, despite their massive defeat, had no intention of indemnifying the Japanese. As a result of his actions, in bring both sides to the peace table and succeeding with a treaty, President Roosevelt was honored with the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.
The question that Bradley explores is why and how did this all evolve. The beginnings of America’s march into the Pacific began first with the corporate conquest and rape of the Hawaiian Islands by an American business oligarchy led by James Dole, of the Dole Pineapple Company, and his cousin Sanford, who became the first President of the Republic of Hawaii, after deposing its last monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani. Bradley recounts how Hawaiian President Dole’s provisional government in 1894, survived quite well on its own and could bide its time, despite President Grover Cleveland’s and Congressional opposition to annexation of the Islands, along with a general feeling of the US public that America should not acquire the Hawaii. In the years since the resignation of Hawaii’s Queen, the Dole government was working hard to solidify its economic and social control. According to Bradley, Theodore Roosevelt, years before he was a known public figure, was “outraged that Cleveland had not proudly “followed the sun” to Hawaii. Indeed, it was this failure by Cleveland that sparked Roosevelt’s interest in Pacific expansion.
Eventually with the election of William McKinley in 1906, as president, the lobbying to make Hawaii part of the United States continued unabatedly. Bradley chronicles the ongoing issue of the annexation of Hawaii and he wrote, “The war with Spain provided another excuse, as Congressman De Alva Alexander of New York declared, ‘The annexation of the Hawaiian Islands, for the first time in our history, is presented to us a war necessity.’” By July of 1898, Congress passed the Hawaiian Resolution Act and it was signed the next day by President McKinley. Within a month the islands were formerly turned over to the United States. Interestingly, according to Bradley, it was ascertained that at the time of Captain James Cook’s so-called “discovery” of the islands in 1778, that there was estimated to be more than a million people living in the Hawaii Islands. He reports, “Just two generations later, in 1832, the first missionary census found only 130,000 survivors.” It seems, that along with Cook and his crew, came tuberculosis, typhus, yellow fever, measles, small pox, bronchitis, whooping cough to the otherwise healthy and pristine Islands. Within the next generation or so, with the physical disappearance of most of the native Hawaiians, the growth of the population of white settlers, known as the Haoles, the importation of Asian workers, and the rise of the local sugar and pineapple interests, the character and the demographics of the islands had changed forever.
With regards to further Pacific expansionism, after the (accidental) explosion of the USS Maine in Havana’s harbor, the Hearst-inspired faux war to rid Cuba of Spain ensued. By the time of the Maine disaster, which caused the death of 250 sailors, the American “yellow press” had turned the nation's focus to Cuba, where insurgents had struggled against the Spanish colonial government forces for more than a year. New York City's first mass-media moguls, William Randolph Hearst and his Journal along with Joseph Pulitzer's World, were beating the bellicose war drums with mostly concocted stories of Spanish brutality, atrocities and what we would know today as war crimes. American voices that supported domination and pacification of the Caribbean were clamoring for intervention incessantly. Most shared the “big gun navy” and expansionist views of US Navy Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, the intellectual father of our modern navy. To Mahan, the over-arching proposition for Americans was “whether Eastern or Western civilization is to dominate throughout the earth and to control its future.” Harvard had honored Mahan with an LL.D. at the Commencement of 1895; and Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge were among his disciples. His book, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783, which was published in 1890, became the future Bible of the “big gun navy” advocates.
Two months before the Spanish-American War broke out, and in preparation for this new action, the now Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt instructed Commodore George Dewey, commanding the navy's Asiatic squadron in Hong Kong, to prepare to engage Spain's small fleet in the Philippines. Roosevelt now resigned from the navy department, volunteered for action in Cuba, ordered a blue lieutenant colonel's uniform from Brooks Brothers, and assumed deputy command of the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, which he named the “Rough Riders,” which name he had taken from his youthful hero, Buffalo Bill Cody. The regiment's commander was a close friend, Colonel Leonard Wood, M.D. Wood, a former frontier military surgeon and Indian fighter, was also President McKinley's personal physician. Despite the fact that the Cuban rebels were winning their war of independence and on the verge of driving the Spaniards out of their land, America was stirred to free the Cubans under the mantra, “Remember the Maine!” Colonels Wood’s and Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders,” headed for Tampa, Florida and embarked with their horses and equipment for Cuba.
With the crushing of the Spanish fleets off Cuba and the Philippines and the defeat of the their land forces in a series of battles on Cuba, including Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill, “The Splendid Little War,” dubbed by Ambassador and future Secretary of State John Hay, ended quickly. As a consequence of this victory, the acquisition of the Philippines resulted in America acquiring a Pacific base for its Asiatic designs on ensuing more economic hegemony in China. As a result of these actions from the 1890’s to the earliest days of the 20th Century, Theodore Roosevelt’s vision of America becoming a strong imperial power started to come to fruition.
The Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the Cuban hostilities, was signed in December, 1898, and turned over much of Spain's shrinking properties in the Western Hemisphere to the United States. The Congress wanted nothing to with U.S. claims to Cuba, but the former Spanish possession remained under American military and martial rule for more than three years. The US Navy retained in perpetuity a large base at the tip of the eastern part of the island, known as Guantanamo. Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam were also part of the ultimate settlement. Ironically, American policy had been shaped by the Ostend Manifestoa document written in 1854, which enunciated the rationale for the United States to purchase Cuba from Spain and implied the U.S. should declare war if Spain refused. Cuba's acquisition had long been a goal of U.S. expansionists and Monroe Doctrine adherents. However, diplomatically, the United States and its public had been ambivalent towards Spanish rule as so long as it did not pass Cuba to a stronger European power. The Ostend Manifesto was a product of the debates over slavery in the United States, Manifest Destiny, and the Monroe Doctrine: The Ostend Manifesto proposed a shift in foreign policy, justifying the use of force to seize Cuba in the name of national security. In 1898, when Cuba was nominally acquired by the United States through war and treaty, many Americas were opposed to having millions of dark-skinned Cubans as subjects of American rule. Therefore, Cuba remained nominally free of the United States, but its governments from 1898 though Colonel Fulgencio Batista, the last leader before Fidel Castro, was beholden to American influence, protection, and business interests. Many of these business interests were dominated by American organized crime.
As for Spain, it was a crushing defeat in more ways than one. Their exit from the Western Hemisphere was a stunning blow to Spain’s dwindling international profile and national pride, and had a remarkable costl in human terms. From the start of the Cuban rebellion to the end of hostilities, many thousands (50,000) of Spaniards died of yellow fever or other diseases, while another 9000 or so died of wounds, injuries, and military action. At the end of the war 10’s of thousands had been captured. On the American side of the equation, some 6000 regulars and volunteers died of infectious diseases, expired of war wounds, and amongst that number, 496 men were killed in action.
In the Philippines the United States got more than it expected or probably ever wanted. The provisions of the Treaty of Paris called for Spain to surrender the islands for a compensation of $20 million. But, as James Bradley describes so well, we got much more than we really bargained for. The Filipinos had traded their Catholic conquistadores for the “Protestant Ethic” of New World. Within weeks, Filipino rebels, under the leadership of Emilio Aquinaldo and the U.S. occupation forces were locked in a shooting war. It took 63,000 casualties and 4,300 American deaths, and almost three years to crush the revolt. “The planting of liberty–not money–is what we seek,” insisted General Arthur MacArthur, the American commandant, and the famous Congressional Medal of Honor recipient father of future General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. But in the new emerging reality, America's acquisition of the Philippines was thought as a preemptive move against Russia, Germany, and other European powers with colonial aims in the Far East. The war basically ended when its young rebel leader, Emilio Aguinaldo, who had earlier become president in 1897, at age 29, during the fight for independence against Spain, was captured by General Frederick Funston. Amazingly, with all the violence and changes in the political and military conditions he lived to the age of 94 and was able to see the Philippines invaded by the Japanese in 1941, suffer through a horrendous occupation, the liberation by American forces, and independence in 1946. Though he cooperated with the Japanese during the war, he was later exonerated because his collaboration was seen as a result of extreme duress.
During this brutal period of conflict, Bradley reveals the truth of the real history of the American occupation and war in the Philippines. This history, which had been white-washed for generations, included incredible racism, brutality, lynching’s, concentration camps, mass killings, and a virtual blood bath, rivaling the murderous conduct of the Axis powers during World War II. In The Imperial Cruise, Bradley writes, “For forty-nine days in the spring of 1900, Commissioner (William Howard) Taft steamed across the wide Pacific, dreaming how he would mold the Pacific Negroes into a ‘self-governing people’ and build them a shiny new nation.” Of course, in the words of Taft, with his famous utterance, “the little brown brothers” were not there to welcome him and his diplomatic entourage. In his cable to the United States, almost immediately after his arrival, he said, “The population of the islands is made up of a vast mass of ignorant, superstitious people, well-intentioned, light-hearted, temperate, somewhat cruel, domestic and fond of their families, and deeply wedded to the Catholic Church…These people are the greatest liars, it has been my fortune to meet, in many respects nothing but grown up children…They need the training of fifty or a hundred years before they even realize where Anglo-Saxon liberty is,”
By 1902, the new President Theodore Roosevelt had declared, with a “wave of his hand” that the insurrection was now at an end. Bradley describes the immense cost, “by then the war had cost the taxpayers of the United States more than (a whopping) six hundred million turn-of-the-twentieth century dollars, 4324 Americans were dead, 2817 had been wounded, and many soldiers who returned home would perish of related diseases and wounds. Most American history books claim that US forces killed twenty thousand freedom fighters and two hundred to three hundred thousand Filipino civilians: other sources estimate that the US military sent one to three million to their early graves.” The list of atrocities is endless. Even some American newspapers carried stories of the brutality. One that even disturbed President Roosevelt was written in the Washington Post “about how the US Army had systematically executed thirteen hundred Filipino prisoners of war in just one camp.” From beginning to end it is a daunting and repulsive story of Aryan propaganda, western theories of “civilization” and rationalization of genocidal murder and for what end?
From the stories of how the Philippines was governed to the role of the participants on the Imperial Cruise, which included the rotund Secretary of William Howard Taft, a future President and a Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Alice Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt’s only daughter, the darling of America’s media, a huge congressional delegation of twenty-seven, which included Nicholas Longworth, who would later wed Princess Alice, Bradley weaves a story of ill-fated foreign policy. As this historically unprecedented delegation sails from across the Pacific, docking in Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, China, and Korea we learn of secret agreements and empty, and often, duplicitous promises which would lead to a disastrous path of bloody history which would include the Pacific War, the triumph of communism in China, and the Korean War.
Theodore Roosevelt came to office with a worldwide view that both China and Russian were dangerous peoples, not worthy to be considered at the level of true westerners. To Roosevelt, both the Chinese race and the Russian Slavic Empire were not to be trusted to rule, and that Aryan Westerners were designated by both Christianity and the White Race to dominate the world. On one hand he was a great believer in The “Open Door” policy towards China, which was articulated by Secretary of State John Hay, in 1898-9, who said, “that as the United States had become an East Asian power through the acquisition of the Philippine Islands, and when the partition of China by the European powers and Japan seemed imminent, the United States felt its commercial interests in China threatened.” U.S. Secretary of State John Hay sent notes to the major powers (France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, and Russia), asking them to declare formally that they would uphold Chinese territorial and administrative integrity and would not interfere with the free use of the treaty ports within their spheres of influence in China. The “Open Door” policy stated that all European nations, and the United States, could trade with China. According to President Theodore Roosevelt, he wanted the United States to be an “equal player” in opening the door to China through trade, but he also wanted to enforce race-hatred and fear through anti-Asian laws; the Burlingame Treaty of 1868, Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and eventually The National Quotas Act of 1924 (passed after his death in 1919) in the United States. The later act was passed with few dissents in both houses of Congress.
In 1902, the United States government protested that Russian encroachment in Manchuria after the Boxer Rebellion was a violation of the “Open Door Policy.” With fears over a Russian hegemony in natural resource rich Manchuria, Bradley contends that Japan was encouraged by the United States to stop Russia. When Japan replaced Russia in southern Manchuria after the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) the Japanese and U.S. governments pledged to maintain a policy of equality in Manchuria. The Roosevelt Policy of the Aryanization of Japan, through the adoption of westernization (dress, government, law, education, culture), was an effort to divide and weaken the larger Asian players; China, and Russia, for the purpose of having economic hegemony. Part of these secret agreements between Roosevelt and his Harvard educated friend Baron Kaneko would lead to both encouraging Japan’s surprise attack on Russia forces in 1904, and Roosevelt’s remarks, “I was thoroughly pleased with the Japanese victory, for Japan is playing our game.” Later he would write to Baron Kaneko, “Japan is the only nation in Asia that understands the principles and methods of Western civilization. She has proven that she can assimilate Western civilization, yet not break up its own heritage. All the Asian nations are now faced with the urgent necessity of adjusting themselves to the present age, Japan should be their natural leader in that process, and their protector during the transition stage, much as the United States assumed the leadership of the American continent many years ago, and by means of the Monroe Doctrine, preserved Latin America nations from European interference, while they were maturing their independence.”
As Bradley writes, Baron Kaneko is feted and celebrated, far and wide, in academic and intellectual circles in America. He is honored at Harvard, hosted at a dinner in his honor by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., and lauded as the new wave in a lasting American-Japanese concordat. “The Baron, told a new generation of Harvard ‘sunfollowers’ that the Japanese are ‘yellow in skin, but in heart and mind as white as Europeans and Americans…Our hearts beat just as much as Christian hearts- the civilized heart is the same the world over.’” So popular was his remarks that they were reprinted in a leading Boston newspaper and reprinted into thousands of booklets. Baron Kaneko continued to promote the Aryan mantra, its mythical emergence from Central Asia, and its fertile nesting place in England.
What Bradley exposes is the root causes that seemed to encourage Japan’s bellicosity, both with its war with China, the 1894-5 (The First Sino-Japanese War), the defeat of Russia (The Russo-Japanese War, 1904-5) and the utter destruction of its naval fleet at the Battle of Tsushima Straits, the diplomatic conquering of the two thousand year old Kingdom of Korea and the taking of the island of Formosa from China. In between, Theodore Roosevelt’s secret encouraging of Japan as America’s “Aryan” spear in the Pacific, to be used against both China and Russia. He details the extension of America’s manifest destiny policy (made famous by the historian Frederick Jackson Turner) regarding Roosevelt’s “follow the sun” strategy of economic and political hegemony in Asia. In promising Japan a free hand with his promotion of a Japanese style Monroe Doctrine, Roosevelt opened a Cassandra’s Box that could not be easily closed. With all of this encouragement of this Japanese cult of superiority over its Asian neighbors, the seeds of conflict were sown for future generations.
As the years advanced and the growing Japanese economic dynamo of westernization took hold, certain realities became apparent. Japan’s alliance against Germany in World War I allowed it to take over German possessions in the Pacific. Officially the League of Nations granted Japan Class C Mandates of the Marshall, Caroline and Marianas Island groups, which had been formally controlled by Germany through international arbitration settled by Pope Leo XII in 1885. Japan’s growing prosperity also increased their birth rate and as their population grew their need for arable land and natural resources also grew. They also were populating these Pacific possessions with not only their own citizens, but workers from Korea and Okinawa. This of course would lead to their invasion of natural resource rich Manchuria in 1931, their setting up of the puppet state of Manchukuo and the Second Sino-Japanese War that would begin in 1937. The need and hunger for more oil to fuel their growing navy and land forces would encourage them to seek new fertile areas to conquer. Their sights were set on French-Indo China and their huge rice production, the Dutch East Indies and the massive oil reserves in Java and the key British Crown Colonies of Hong Kong and Singapore. What stood in their way of unfettered conquest was the American fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor, and the American military facilities in the Philippines at Cavite, Clark Field, along with thousands of US soldiers and Filipino Scouts under the command of Field Marshall Douglas MacArthur on Leyte and Luzon.
This fatal decision to promote the interests of Japan, as our silent partner, was very possibly encouraged by both flawed America racial prejudice and our economic avarice in the early part of the 20th Century. This policy would prove fatal to millions. Of course, this leads directly to the HBO production of The Pacific and its personal coverage of some of the men who served and suffered in that Theater of Operation.
Meanwhile, the HBO documentary, The Pacific, broadcast this spring was a follow-up to the very successful and award-winning Band of Brothers, which was originally produced and aired in 2001, Its powerful narrative centers on the experiences of E Company (“Easy Company”) of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment assigned to the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. The series covers Easy's basic training at Toccoa, Georgia, the American airborne landings in Normandy, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of Bastogne and on to the end of the war, including the taking of the Kehlsteinhaus (Hitler's Eagle's Nest).
The Pacific, which was produced almost ten years later showed the stark differences between the conditions in the European Theater and the war in the Pacific. It focused on the United States Marine Corps' actions in the Pacific Theater of Operations within the wider Pacific War. Whereas Band of Brothers followed one Army infantry company through the European Theater, The Pacific follows three marines (Eugene Sledge, Robert Leckie and John Basilone) in separate combat actions. The Pacific was based primarily on two memoirs of U.S. Marines, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene Sledge and Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie. The miniseries tells the stories of the two authors and Marine John Basilone, as the war against the Empire of Japan rages. It also draws on Sledge's China Marine and Red Blood, Black Sand, the memoir of Chuck Tatum, a Marine who fought alongside Basilone in Iwo Jima. The miniseries features well-known battles with Japan involving the 1st Marine Division, such as Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, and Okinawa, as well as Basilone's involvement in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
By the time of The Pacific’s production, the three main characters had passed away. John Basilone, (November 4, 1916 – February 19, 1945), had served three years in the United States Army with duty in the Philippines before joining the Marine Corps in 1940. After attending Marine Corps training, Basilone deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Solomon Islands and eventually to Guadalcanal where in the course of one battle, he held off 3,000 Japanese troops after his 15-member unit was reduced to two other men. For that action he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and subsequently was returned to the United States. In the following months, after a parade in his home town, he toured the country with Bond Rallies raising money for the war effort and achieved celebrity status. Although he appreciated the admiration, he felt out of place and requested to return to the action in the Pacific. The Marine Corps turned him down and basically told him he was needed more at home. They felt that he would be vulnerable to either injury or death, and basically they wanted a “live” hero. The Marines offered him a commission, but he felt more comfortable as a NCO and wanted to return to his men. He, therefore again, requested to return to combat and eventually the Marines relented, his request was approved, and he left for Camp Pendleton, California for training on December 27, 1943. Upon his return to action, he was killed on the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima, after which he was posthumously honored with the Navy Cross. He has received many honors including being the namesake for streets, military locations and a United States Navy destroyer. He was the only US Marine, in the Pacific Theater during World War II, to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.
Eugene Bondurant Sledge (November 4, 1923 – March 3, 2001) was a United States Marine, university professor, and author. His 1981 memoir With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa chronicled his combat experiences during World War II and was subsequently used as source material for Ken Burn's PBS documentary, The War, as well as the HBO miniseries The Pacific.. During his service, as a Marine 60mm mortarman, Sledge kept notes of what happened in his pocket sized New Testament Bible. After the Japanese capitulation, he was posted to Beijing, China and then was repatriated to the United States, where he was discharged from the Marine Corps in February 1946 with the rank of Corporal. In the coming years as a writer and professor, he took those notes and compiled them into the memoir that was entitled With the Old Breed
Robert Leckie (December 18, 1920 – December 24, 2001) was the author of a number of best-selling books regarding the military history of the United States. As a young man, he served in the Pacific with1st Marine Division during World War II. His experiences as a machine gunner and intelligence scout during the Battle of Guadalcanal and later campaigns greatly influenced his writing. His first and best-selling book, Helmet for My Pillow, a personal war memoir, was published in 1957. Leckie subsequently wrote more than 40 books on American war history. He, like EB Sledge, died in 2001 after fighting a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease.
In between the famous and long-lasting Battle of Guadalcanal, and the final campaign of World War II, the invasion of Okinawa, the bloody battle of Iwo Jima takes place. Leckie and Sledge, who were central to the production of The Pacific, did not fight on that island. James Bradley, whose father was one of the heroic US Marines who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, also wrote dramatically about the Battle of Iwo Jima, in his now famous Flag of Our Fathers. Of course, that horrendous battle is mostly remembered by current generations because of the famous photograph of the second raising of the American flag on the 554 foot extinct volcano that dominated the island and the US Marine Corps Memorial, which is based on that photo, in Alexandria, VA, just over the bridge from the Lincoln Memorial.
With regards to the pivotal flag-raising on Iwo Jima, by the fourth day of the brutal combat that would last for five weeks and claim 26,039 (6,822 KIAs) American casualties, Mount Suribachi, was captured. Because the first flag raised on the summit was deemed too small, the 2nd Battalion commander, Colonel Chandler W. Johnson, whose temperament was as fiery as the legendary Marine General Howland “Howling Mad” Smith’s, said that the original flag was for the men of our battalion and ordered Lt. Wells to get another flag to replace the first flag. Wells said he sent his company runner, Rene Gagnon, (later to be a flag raiser) to the beach to get a flag from one of the many crafts that were wrecked and littered along the beach. Interestingly, Col. Johnson later recalled that he had sent Lt. Ted Tuttle to the same beach to get the replacement flag. Johnson called after Tuttle and said, “And make it a bigger one.” While Lt. Tuttle was looking for a replacement flag, Gagnon, who had also been sent to the beach, reached Colonel Johnson’s command position. Tuttle took a large 96” by 56” American flag to the Colonel that he had obtained from LST-779. This flag had been found in a salvage yard at Pearl Harbor and had been rescued from a sinking ship on December 7th. He handed it to the Colonel, who in turn gave it to Gagnon. He told Gagnon and others with him, “You tell (Lt.) Schrier to put this flag up, and I want him to save the small flag for me.”
By the time Gagnon got back to the top, Joe Rosenthal, the Associated Press photographer, had arrived. A long pole was found, and because it was long and heavy it took quite a few men to hoist it to the site of where the first flag was planted. Ironically, when Rosenthal had disembarked from the command ship, he had slipped on a wet ladder and had landed in the ocean between that ship and a landing craft. He had to be fished from the water. He was lucky his bulky, but durable 35mm Speed Graphic was in a waterproof bag. After he landed he was able to get a few shots of General Smith and Secretary Forrestal disembarking from their landing craft. He and another reporter had heard that the Marines were approaching the top of Suribachi. Along with Rosenthal, was Bill Hipper, a magazine correspondent, and combat photographers Private Bob Campbell, who worked with a still camera and Sergeant Bill Genaust, who had a movie camera loaded with color film.
As Rosenthal approached the top shortly after noon, he noticed a couple of marines hauling a long heavy iron pole. The pole the marines were dragging was a length of drainage pipe and weighed more than a hundred pounds. As the three photographers milled around, the first flag was lowered, some photos and movies were taken, and the marines got set for the almost simultaneous raising of the second and larger flag. The Marines wanted the replacement of the smaller flag with the larger one to be seamless. Rosenthal set his camera down and piled up some stones and a sand bag to stand his short five foot five inch frame upon. His camera was set a 1/400th of a second with an f-stop between 8 and 16.
By the time Rosenthal looked up, the second flag-raising quickly happened as the men, Ira Hays, Frank Sousley, John Bradley, Harlon Block, Mike Strank and Rene Gagnon carried the flag and started to plant it into the ground. As they approached, Rosenthal spotted their movement, grabbed his camera, and got set. Genaust who was about three feet away asked Rosenthal if he was in his way. Rosenthal said. “Oh no,” and later said “Hey Bill, there it goes.” Everyone got what they wanted, the first flag going down and the second larger flag going up. Rosenthal wasn’t even sure that the shot would come out. After a few moments Rosenthal did what Lowery had done, he called several marines to cluster around the pole for a standard shot. Eventually 18 marines would be in this casual shot. They were laughing, waving their arms and helmets. The replacement flag-raising was so casual that it was never even reported in the 2nd Battalion’s “Action Report.”
After watching The Pacific and discussing its place in the history of cinematic and broadcast history, I re-read EB Sledge’s classic account of action in the Pacific Theater, With the Old Breed, at Peleliu and Okinawa. The 1st Marine Division, which Sledge served, is the largest unit on active duty in the United States Marine Corps. Nicknamed “the Old Breed,” or the “Blue Diamond,” the 1st Marine Division is also the most decorated unit of its size in the USMC. The 1st Marine Division is the ground combat element of the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) and is stationed at Camp Pendleton in California
Many millions of words have been written about the brutal combat in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Unlike in Europe, or even North Africa, our Pacific fighting men had no sense of what they were doing, why they were there and where they were going. The US Armed Forces in Europe looked at their effort as one of engaging other civilized and Christian westerners. In 1940, about 40% of the American population had German blood, and it was considered our largest, hyphenated national group. German was almost universally taught in the schools in America up until 1917, and many Americas still spoke it in their homes. With regards to their Axis partner Italy, the amount of native born Italo-Americans in 1942, was also very large, well-known, and active in the culture of American society, with people like Joe DiMaggio, Jimmy Durante, Victor Mature, Lou Costello, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Frank Capra and various adopted opera stars, like the great Enrico Caruso. Therefore, the American armed forces were made up of many immigrants from the old and new immigration periods of American history. The rules of warfare, elucidated by the Geneva Convention were thought to apply. In actuality, there were few battlefield atrocities inflicted by Axis forces on western allied soldiers, who were captured. Thousands of American, British, French and Canadians, unlike their Russian counterparts, were able to survive long and bitter years in German POW camps. The typical Allied soldier thought that he would be treated humanely if captured, and also thought that surrender was respected under the rules of war. The Allied soldier respected their German opponents as fellow soldiers and only at the end of the war, when the atrocities were exposed, did the average American realize the barbarism of the Nazis. But, in most part, most Allied soldiers did not regard the average German soldier as a committed Nazi!
In the Pacific, of course, much of the brutal combat, vividly recounted in The Pacific documentary, was the culmination of a three-year struggle with the Empire of Japan. Americans quickly learned from the earliest days of the Bataan death march, that this was a different war against a different type of person and soldier. The Japanese soldier was seen as an unrelenting foe, who would not surrender, and who believed that his foes were cowards who did surrender. The battles of the Pacific were fought on strange islands, which were completely unfamiliar to the average soldier. On some islands there were no indigenous people. In most of the islands the terrain was made up of volcanic rock, and coral sands. There was little vegetation, horrible heat and humidity, no drinking water and an incredible amount of rain. Even a 90-mile long tropical island like Guadalcanal was uninhabitable and it had no standing fresh water. Therefore, the war became one of brutality, of one of survival and therefore; kill or be killed. There was no London, Paris, Naples Rome or even a Casablanca or Tangiers for rest and recovery. It was the ultimate for survival resulting in degradation and dehumanization. It is in that context, which EB Sledge so dramatically describes and The Pacific so vividly portrays.
Hanson W. Baldwin, former NY Times’ Military Editor, wrote in his classic book, Battles Lost and Won, about Okinawa, “In retrospect, the battle for Okinawa can be described only in the grim superlatives of war. In size, scope, and ferocity it dwarfed the Battle of Britain. Never before had there been, probably never again will there be, such a vicious, sprawling struggle of planes against planes, of ships against planes. Never before, in so short a space, had the Navy lost so many ships; never before in land fighting had so much American blood been shed in so short of time, in so small an area; probably never before in three months of the war had the enemy suffered so hugely, and the final toll of American casualties was the highest experienced in any campaign against the Japanese. There have been larger land battles, more protracted air campaigns, but Okinawa was the largest combined operation, a ‘no-quarter’ struggle fought on, under and over the sea and land.” He summed up the battle by writing, “Okinawa was an epic of human endurance and courage. The Japanese forms of attack represented ingenious desperation; the US defense against them and the successful seizure of Okinawa were a masterpiece of logistics, operation planning and determined implementation.” Finally the blood-letting was at an end, and on June 22, 1945, except for the continued air raids on the Japanese home islands, the work of the Marines was over.
This almost four-year bloody and titanic struggle officially ended, September 2, 1945, on the deck of the American battleship Missouri, anchored in Tokyo with the surrender ceremonies led by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur along with Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and military representatives from all of the Allied Nations that waged war against Japan. It historically began on December 7, 1941, with the Japanese sneak attack on our naval and military facilities in the Hawaiian Islands. But did it, in reality, begin with American designs on Asian markets, the need for coaling stations across the Pacific, the “Opening of Japan” by Commodore Perry, and the confused mixture of idealism and racism embodied by President Theodore Roosevelt?