Flags of Our Fathers Study Guide

Chapter 5 – Forging the Spearhead

The six flag raisers arrive at Camp Pendleton, an enormous Marine training camp nestled between Los Angeles and San Diego. This is where they all meet each other for the very first time. Ira, Harlon, and Mike arrive after their furlough from Bougainville. Franklin and Rene arrived fresh from training, and John/Doc came directly from Field Medical School. All of them were assigned to be led by Captain Dave Severence at the Easy Company, also being a part of the 28th Regiment, which was being commanded by Colonel Harry “The Horse” Liversedge. The Easy Company was dubbed as “Spearhead”, as a reference to the role that they were about to play with the invasion of the Japanese island.

During their time at Camp Pendleton, the Marines train to become Riflemen, to become masters of their weapons. Rene and Doc both learn how to handle a rifle, despite their previous experience as a messenger and a corpsman. Ira ended up becoming a “BAR” man, handling Brownman automatic rifles. On the other hand, Mike, Franklin, and Harlon become rifle specialists. The Spearhead team trained hard and vigorously for six months. They focused on mock assaults, swimming, and tactical marches. All of them knew that they were training for something big, but they had no idea where they were being sent for battle. Doc Bradley ended up befriending Ralph Ignatowski (or Iggy), who enlisted to the Marines by forging the urine sample that he submitted. They became “buddies” and kept track of each other during combat.

All of the flag raisers started boding with each other; save for Rene who mostly kept to himself and stayed on the sidelines. Because he was considered to not have the skills of a Marine, he was reassigned to become a “runner” instead. He became a messenger who reported to the headquarters. While on two separate weekend leaves, Harlon decides to visit his brother Ed Jr. and his sister Maurine. He tells his siblings that he knows that he wouldn’t return from battle and that he will surely die and never see them again. During the four months before the attack on Iwo Jima, the Fifth Division gets flown to Hawaii to train at Camp Tarawa. The miserable condition didn’t discourage them from continuing their training. They practiced how to disembark their transport ships and how to take on a beach. After they spent Christmas Day at Camp Tarawa, they started their 40-day journey to Iwo Jima, which they still know as “Island X”, making a stop at Pearl Harbor along the way.

Notes: In chapter 5, their transition from boyhood into manhood became more evident, based on the letters sent by the flag raisers. However, there are still some contradictions, as those who were with them at camp still saw some of them as boys.

Chapter 6 - Armada

Via the USS Missoula, the six flag raisers were transported to “Island X”, alongside 1,500 other troops, including all members of the Easy Company. Two days after they leave Pearl Harbor, they discover that “Island X” is actually Iwo Jima. They start studying a map of the island and plan their attack. Iwo Jima plays a great role in Japanese history. In Shinto tradition, the island is part of the creation from a burst from Mount Fuji and is now part of the Tokyo prefecture. It is mandatory for the Americans to take over Iwo Jima, as the Japanese soldiers stationed there are gunning down planes that are on their way to bomb the Japanese mainland. The Navy and the Army Air Force have been bombing Iwo Jima tirelessly to make it easier for the Marines to take over the island. However, this has been deemed impossible, as the trenches that the Japanese have made were resistant to the overhead bombings.

Lieutenant General Kuribayashi, in command of leading the Japanese in Iwo Jima, knows precisely where the Americans will land on the island. There are only two miles of beach suitable for landing. Him, along with his 22,000 soldiers, was able to construct an elaborate network of underground tunnels and rooms; which includes blockhouses made of steel and concrete and camouflaged with sand. The maps used by American reconnaissance were unable to detect these structures. When the Marines arrived, they thought that it was going to be an easy and quick battle. The Navy was unable to lend a hand to the Marines, as ships were being required to be sent off to attack the mainland instead. The Navy only had one full day of bombing Iwo Jima before the Marines arrived.

Notes: Bradley greatly emphasized how the Marines prevailed and showed their bravery despite the battle.

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