Inscription above the Marine Corps’ cemetery, Iwo Jima
As we’ve seen during the bitterly contested past few years in American politics, the “new media” has very quickly begun to make life quite difficult for the American political Left. No longer can they go skulking about in the shadows and crevices of the political underworld, feeling rather self-satisfied that their superior intelligence was enabling them to pull right over the eyes of the common, ignorant, American individual one of the greatest cultural upheavals in history. Truth be told, even though their “MO” has always been stealth and secrecy – simply because they know, without question, that their ideas are blatant anathema to the American people – they have been, in their own way, telling all of us directly to our faces exactly what it is that they plan to do to this country if given the chance. We just never bothered to listen, nor did we take them very seriously.
Well, in 2008 they got that chance. And, because they immediately became bolder than they should have right out of the gate, the “new media” – the American people themselves – woke up in an instant and quickly turned their cell phones, video equipment, and other photographic devices upon them. No longer can the compromised and corrupted mainstream media protect them; the emperor no longer has any clothes.
Ironically, it is the anniversary of this date in American history that provides a glaring example of how all of this has come together.
About six months ago, a person with a recording device of some sort – a cell phone, most likely – caught Michele Obama uttering some fairly damning words into her husband’s ears during a parade. While conservatives and liberals will more than likely debate what it is that she’s saying to the president in this now fairly-famous clip, just the mere fact that there is a degree of debate about these few moments warrants a discussion.
Assuming that Michele Obama did, indeed, utter the words, “All this for a damn flag”, and that her husband nodded in smug acquiescence, then that fraction of a moment in time – a concept at the heart of this article – tells us all that we need to know about those who claim to be the alleged “leaders” of America. From their point-of-view, the flag – for that matter, any flag – is merely a swath of colored cloth. After all, a swath of colored cloth could never stand to represent anything other than what it is, because let’s face it – there’s certainly nothing larger than ourselves in which we should believe. Like God. Or a Divine Creator. Or even just ideas. After all, ideas can be dangerous….no?
Personally, I think the people in the Obama administration and other like-minded individuals would be better served in this particular instance and on this particular date to perhaps take yet another brief moment, but in this case they should try to learn from history, rather than attempting to work their Orwellian magic and to re-write it. I also think that they might learn just how ironic is the juxtaposition of Michele Obama’s having been surreptitiously “caught in the act” by today’s “new media” against one of the, if not the most famous photographs in American history, which was quite literally snapped by mistake – another very telling fraction of a moment in time.
Today, February 23rd, is the 67th anniversary of what has gone down in history as one of the single most inspirational moments in American history, the planting of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on the tiny island of Iwo Jima. That battle during the American forces’ island-hopping campaign on their way to mainland Japan is arguably the most horrific – but valorous – in our nation’s history. For as long as the United States of America exists, that 1/400 second accidentally snapped by James Rosenthal may, quite possibly, remain the defining image of American courage, resolve, individualism, and freedom.
Of course, Liberals and Leftists will stridently claim that the truth behind that image was anything but what it appeared to be on the surface, that it was merely another example of American propaganda.
For 1/400 second, I have to agree.
There’s a lot more depth behind that two-dimensional image, a story that will probably surprise Liberals more so than Conservatives. In fact, the actual truth behind the events leading up to Rosenthal’s click will most likely only further convince Conservatives that the reverence that they hold for the picture is completely justified.
I’ve no doubt that once I’ve finished presenting a brief explanation of the events leading up to the second flagraising – which was supposed to have been a non-event (and was to every single Marine on Iwo Jima) – Liberals will claim that all of this is merely a collection of random coincidences. Maybe they’re right. I’ll grant them that. From where I’ve always stood on the issue, however, when I view the totality of all of the events, all I can say – each and every time – is that God works in mysterious ways.
The most important context into which all of this should be couched, I think, is a basic understanding of the manner in which the media operates, because truth be told, it is the media that was most culpable for breathing into that picture a near-mythological sense of life. If this had happened today, of course, the members of the media would only profit in their competition with one another (strange – haven’t we been led to believe that Liberals are against competition and profiteering? And wouldn’t that include a large percentage of what passes for today’s mainstream media?) by writing largely anti-American stories, so I’m positive that The New York Times would never allow such jingoism to make it back to the mainland.
More and more Americans are now waking up to the spirit of competition, in that honest competition results in a better economic world for everyone, because by its vary nature, honest competition drives down the cost of practically anything and everything. The competition in the media, however, is usually anything but honest and often “drives down” standards of all sorts: ethical, moral, professional, as well as those of personal conscience.
I feel that the only way that I can adequately express my feelings about the media nowadays is by being admittedly and deliberately hyperbolic. The past several years have taught me quite a lot about the manner in which all forms of the press operate, most of which comes down to one, very basic point: in order for a news outlet of any type to succeed to any degree – internet news agencies, wire services, newspapers, television, etc. – it must out-do the other guy, which is the basis of competition, capitalism, and, unfortunately, sensationalism (William Randolph Hearst was certainly ahead of his time). When all of the fanfaronade is stripped away, the media operates on the same economic survival mechanism as anyone or anything else – it’s all about the benjamins. Consequently, the media is going to produce things based one either one of two criteria, or both: stuff that the great unwashed wants to hear, or that which will keep them comfortably in their elitist perch.
As a result, I most often characterize the mainstream media as “evil”. Not literally, of course. I’m certain that most of the people who work in the industry are fine people. It’s the larger, abstract concept of the colossus that is the media with which most everyday Americans have a serious problem. Quite simply, there are very few of us who trust the monster any longer.
Attention-getting stories sell, plain and simple. The bare-bones truth is usually dull, unlikely to attract interest, and probably won’t result in subscriptions, sales, ratings, and advertising success. Unfortunately for America, it seems as though the mainstream media became infatuated with anti-Americanism sometime during the 1960’s, and consequently, the vast majority of those emerging from allegedly “elite” universities with degrees in communications have spent the bulk of their professional careers trying to “out-do” their chic friends in the industry as well as attempting to prove to themselves and the rest of America that they – not the American people – are right.
Obviously, America was a much, much different place during the World War II years and up through the early 1960’s. The media wanted stories that fully displayed the strength and pride of America, and they were willing to compete with one another in order to produce the best copy and the best pictures. In this larger context, the photograph at the top of Mount Suribachi tells us quite a bit. It not only shines a fairly damning light on the media but also a radiant light on an entire time period as well as the six young men and the photographer who were there by mere happenstance, which is usually when “natural greatness”, so to speak, actually occurs. Greatness cannot be manufactured.
The best way to present this is, therefore, for me to give the reader as close to and as brief a chronological account of what took place leading up to the second flagraising.
The Marines’ initial, primary objective was to cut off Mount Suribachi from the rest of the island, for obvious reasons. Once that had been accomplished after three brutal days of fighting and incredible accounts of valor (the Battle of Iwo Jima resulted in the greatest number of medals awarded in one engagement in our nation’s history, including the Medal of Honor, the Purple Heart, and the Navy Cross), a small contingent of roughly 40 Marines were sent up the mountain in an attempt to secure it. The most important consideration with regard to this climb is that it was largely a non-event – much to their surprise, they scaled Suribachi completely unopposed. Not a single shot of resistance was fired. Not very heroic. Shortly after which, of course, the first flag was raised, to thunderous ovations from the ships and soldiers below.
The national correspondents, however, snug in their perch aboard US battleships, cruisers, and aircraft carriers and watching from a safe distance, had only a general sense of the sacrifice that was taking place and the brutality that the Marines were enduring. They obviously lacked the specific details that would have only come from being on the ground, which only a maniac would have desired. Consequently, without having been close enough to the actual combat to get the “real” stories that were unfolding, the Marines’ walk up Suribachi – probably the first “event” to which the media had been exposed (with the exception of the beach landing) – became a “valiant fight to the death amidst a hailfire of bullets”, the lion’s share of which had been strung together with embellishments of details from the ground fighting and some that were spun out of whole cloth.
But it made for a great story.
Once the first flag went up and the military brass was in position to take over, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal decreed that he “wanted that flag…because that flag would mean the Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.” Members of the military follow orders, but sometimes, they’re not always happy about it. The officers on the ground were outraged with Forrestal’s order, because they felt – justifiably – that the flag belonged to the men who had taken the mountain, and even more so, to those who had given their lives to save their buddies in the process. The order stood, however, and a replacement flag was requisitioned.
Here’s where the events that came together in just such a way have always led to my wondering on the larger forces at work in the universe. What was to the eyes of everyone standing there a complete non-event became something much more in less than the blink of an eye. First, the seemingly non-descript “replacement” flag that was attached to a somewhat twisted metal pole was, in fact, a very significant one – it was a flag that had been rescued from one of the ships that was going down at Pearl Harbor.
Coincidence #1. Just a damn flag.
Think the sailors entombed on the Arizona didn’t enjoy that knife into the heart of Japanese soil?
Rosenthal, who during the previous half-hour or so had bemoaned the fact that he’d missed out on getting a picture of the “posed” shot after the first flagraising, jumped in with his camera, figuring that at least maybe he’d get some type of picture worth printing; until he actually saw the picture some days later, he wasn’t even sure that he had one.
When Rosenthal’s film was opened for developing after it had reached its first station in Guam on the way back to the mainland, the entire roll of film was ruined – except for one picture.
And, finally, we also have to take into account the technology of the day, which allowed for pictures to be transmitted via telephone communications. Two separate sources had access to this technology and would be transmitting photographs from the front throughout the war: the civilian service – the media – and the military service, which was slower, due to the official nature of approvals and such. Consequently, the picture of the second flagraising – Rosenthal’s “mistake” – made it back to the mainland before the picture of the first, “official” flagraising and at about the same time as the media’s account of the “valiant climb up the mountain amidst a hailfire of bullets.”
Obviously, for the military and the American people, there was no going back. What appeared to be the truth – Victory – had to remain so. It represented closure. The media, however, was not finished being seriously derelict in its duty, and even more so. The best part of this unspoken crime, however, is that they weren’t even there to do the due dereliction.
To the members of the media, the capture of Suribachi was the end of the story. There were other battlefronts to mine for stories. The vast majority of them left with the military brass, completely oblivious to the fact that the fighting on Iwo Jima – brutal fighting (read some of the accounts of what happened to American soldiers on that island; you’ll have a hard time fighting back tears) – would go on for another 35 days. As a result, they missed the real heroism that actually did take place.
As for the six flagraisers – Mike Strank, Harlon Block, Franklin Sousley, Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon, and John “Doc” Bradley – three of them were killed in action shortly after the picture was taken, and only one – Bradley – lived to old age. The six young men were in the right place at the right time, but if you’d had the opportunity to ask at least two of the survivors – Hayes and Bradley – they would’ve told you that they were most decidedly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Treated as “heroes” for having raised – according to Bradley – “a pole”, two of these men had difficulty for the rest of their life trying to reconcile the unwarranted treatment that they received against the fact that, according to Bradley, “the real heroes of Iwo Jima are the ones who never came back.”
It sometimes make me think of a line from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night – “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
So, did these six boys do something truly heroic? Well, no and yes.
Seen through the eyes of the people there, it was a nondescript event. It was, however, in an abstract way, justice for those murdered at Pearl Harbor. Let’s also not forget that three of these boys were killed fighting to stop fascism from spreading to American shores, and one of them – Bradley – was awarded the Navy Cross for tending to his wounded comrades under withering crossfire. No small feat during any warfare situation, but Bradley put his life on the line, with nary a thought for himself, while wearing his medical pouch strapped over his shoulder, which the Japanese were actively targeting. If they took out a medic, it was more like three for the price of one.
In short, the surviving young Marines became, in a way, exactly what our Founders had envisioned for their fledgling nation – leaders who became leaders because their country needed them, not because they wanted the job.
At the risk of being out-of-line, allow me to say this – and please remember, I’m speaking only for myself here, and for no one who either writes for or has any attachment to this blog – if you honor what these young men endured for America, you vote Republican; if not, you’re supporting the very thing that thousands of them went to their graves to stop. No degree of political gymnastics is going to change that. If you don’t like it, well…tough luck, I guess.
As I said, I’ll grant Liberals the set of coincidences that took place as being just that.
But that’s an awful lot of perfectly-timed coincidences.
Allow me to close with a message for Michele Obama –
Yes, Michele, all this for a flag.
And remember this well – I will never yield.