Saturday, May 28, 2005

Photo Ops

Today I watched the History Channel’s Mail Call special with R. Lee Ermey on Iwo Jima. They showed all of the magnificent footage of the battle that was shot by the marine cameramen and others who were present at the battle, including the historic footage by Sgt. Bill Genaust. Every time I see shows of this nature I’m awestruck by how hellish those fights must have been, how courageous the men who fought them were. During just this battle, 27 Medals of Honor were bestowed upon the marines and sailors involved. For perspective, there were just 81 Medals of Honor awarded to marines during all of WWII.

The Flag-raising Posted by Hello

One thing that struck me was that three of the six troops (five marines and a navy corpsman) who took part in the famous flag-raising scene were later killed in battle right there on the island. Sgt Genaust, the man who took the famous footage of the flag-raising, was himself killed when he went into a cave held by Japanese soldiers. His body was sealed up along with the Japanese inside the cave after other marines had fired their flamethrowers into the cave.

The reason this all seemed so noteworthy to me, aside from the incredible sacrifice of these good men, was that I wondered if anyone at the time or in the months after ever chided the marines for staging this event and declaring “mission accomplished” too early. The flag was raised on Mount Suribachi on the fifth day of fighting. I wonder if the political opponents of the President ever snidely kept tabs of the number of casualties that occurred after the raising of the flag. The battle raged for another month after this “staged photo op”.

I’m sure I’m not the first to make this observation and certainly not the best. It just annoys me to no end when people focus on relatively trivial matters when compared with the total stakes of what we’re dealing with and when compared with the truly incredible things that brave men do on our behalf.