Patriotic Fervor and the Truth About Iwo Jima. hnn.us
Publishing these facts led to no end of trouble because it is the intense feeling the photograph evokes, and its monumental statue, and the statue's many copies all over the place, and statue's original mold and its cement prototype, and its plaster model, and its miniature all evoke that count, and not the pedantic facts of first flag vs second flag and of the men involved in the scene.
Although, the men depicted in the famous photograph are all hailed as national heroes while the original men do not get that same recognition. Conversely, they do get recognition, after all the holiday is for the fallen, and if not fallen in service, another holiday for having served. But not the intense national personal recognition received by the group of sex men raising the second flag. Men who served in the war will say that does not matter. They will say the people who did not come home are the true heroes. I say they all are. I am simply awestruck.
First flag raising at Iwo Jima, somewhat smaller flag, somewhat less compositionally artistically dramatic. This wouldn't make a bad statue either, come to think of it, now that I'm looking at it more closely.
It is interesting to me the photographer, Joe Rosenthal, with a small group of photographers had to break military restrictions, bust a move on their perimeter security, in order to get at the scene and take these photographs that touch pretty much everyone who sees them. I recall my own puny security fence violations at bases here and there as a boy, I could not do that today.
Here's the thing. The image is appropriated for all kinds of things, anything involving a long and hard-fought struggle. I've even seen the U.S. flag replaced with rainbow colors, a long hard struggle, yes, in the courts and not under direct fire. The usage, the appropriation of the composition, I find... inappropriate.
In that same sense, and it is only a sense, a personal sense, the flag in the photograph has forty-eight stars and that number of stars with its distinct pattern lock the men in their time at that place under those conditions, and by using modern flags on the monument for today takes the real life men out of their time and places them in ours. Perhaps that is fine. The image is timeless, so I suppose that is okay and we are living as we are today because of these men and what others like them did for us and our prosperity, their posterity. I do see the appropriateness of us using a fifty-star flag for the timeless nature of gratitude, but I do also prefer a forty-eight star flag used to place these men in their time. It is only my personal sense.
Sometimes I do not understand myself.
Here is a go at trying to understand myself. Imagine a statue made of Washington crossing the Delaware. What flag do you think is appropriate?
As to fame, as to recognition, shortly before he passed I asked my dad what his ribbons meant on his uniform. I asked what each one means specifically. They tell his whole history. They read like a curriculum vitae, his patient description sounded like a résumé of a sort.
"This one is for serving in Korea."
"I didn't know you were in Korea."
"I was at Okinawa."
"So you weren't in Korea but you got the ribbon?" Oh, I am so clever sometimes.
My dad looked straight at me and laughed in good nature at his little dummkopf. How stupid, how pathetic I am, how tender.
"Okinawa was the center for communications in the Far East during the Korean War. We were prime target during that war. It was very dangerous."
"Oh." I felt like an ass. Because I am one. I've seen the photographs he sent home. I should have known better than that.