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Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima

Essay by   •  May 30, 2012  •  Essay  •  3,761 Words (16 Pages)  •  2,907 Views

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Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima are two films that epitomize what it means to be a hero. Directed by Clint Eastwood, both movies portray various acts where soldiers risk their lives in order to defeat the enemy and protect their country. As depicted by Eastwood, war is brutal but it can also elicit behavior that is deemed heroic. Heroism, though, may differ depending on the culture of the nation that the soldiers are a part of. In these films, Eastwood shows how what is heroic for the American soldiers differs from what is heroic for the Japanese soldiers. Although these movies are both considered as Iwo Jima WWII films, Eastwood shows the soldiers' motivations for fighting are different as well as contrasts how heroism is demonstrated in both the Japanese and American militaries.

The American troops show acts of heroism for their comrades whereas the Japanese do so for their Emperor. Early on in Flags of Our Fathers the viewers see the Americans soldiers, who do not know anyone in their respective platoons, help each other out by providing cover, healing, or even conversing with each other. Through the war they become the very best of friends and are even willing to die for one another, unlike the Japanese who die for their Emperor. By maintaining these soldiers as point-of-view characters, Eastwood is able to show the differences in philosophy between the fairly self-less Americans who want to win with the least number of casualties and the more determined Japanese who are committed to exterminating the enemy without pausing to save their injured comrades.

The American soldiers from Flags of Our Fathers consider soldiers who sacrifice for a fellow comrade as heroes whereas the Japanese soldiers from Letters from Iwo Jima achieve heroism by fighting for their families and protecting their Emperor. The first instance of a heroic deed in Flags of Our Fathers is when a soldier is shot and is calling for help in the midst of crossfire. Almost immediately, Doc, a corpsman, ignoring the pleas of Sergeant Mike, runs into the Japanese line of fire and drags the injured soldier to a safe area. The Japanese are shooting at Doc, but his loyalty to his comrades prevents him from leaving the injured marine to die. Another instance of a heroic deed is when Doc scurries around the battlefield, searching for wounded soldiers to heal, and suddenly, he hears someone call, "Corpsman Down!" (Flags). Doc hurries to his injured comrade and sees that he has been shot in the neck, "He's pleading with Doc to save his life" (Flags). Doc applies pressure to the wound, but "He can't save him" (Flags). Doc continues wanting to help others and shows his frustration for not saving his comrade when he flings down his tools in disgust, walks over to the side of the ridge and is shot in the leg. But this is not enough to stop him from doing his job; he crawls over to a nearby soldier shouting for help and gives him a shot of morphine and manages to succeed in saving the soldier. Doc risks his life for the injured corpsman because Doc, like most of the American soldiers, feels a bond towards his "brother" and is willing to risk his life to save his fellow fighters. Although both movies have soldiers that perform acts of heroism, in Letters From Iwo Jima, the Japanese soldiers do so for their families and Emperor rather than their comrades. Robin Clifford, of Reeling Reviews, describes the Japanese way of heroism as "The rift that the men feel between their loyalty and willingness to die for their emperor and their desire to stay alive to see their families once again is palpable." Despite the fact that Kuribayashi, the main general of the Iwo Jima operation, states, "I am determined to serve and give my life for my country," he writes "letters that paint picture[s]" to his daughter, Taro--who is the most important person in his life--showing that although he is forced to give his life for the emperor, he feels a connection to his family and fights for them, in an attempt to see them once more. (Corliss) Likewise, Saigo, a newlywed with an unborn daughter, was drafted by the emperor; "Your husband is going to war!" (Letters) the landlady says as she opens the door to Saigo's quarters. He is reluctant to accept the royal edict, but is forced to, even when his wife pleads with the officer who brings this news. Saigo, completely torn by the news, tells his wife "I will not die, (he leans towards his wife's stomach) do not tell anyone this, but I will come back just for you" (Letters). In this scene, Eastwood shows that Saigo, "a baker who was drafted, sent to Iwo Jima without training while his wife was pregnant, was lucky enough to survive when comrades near him died", devotes his life to providing for his family (Political Film Society 1). In contrast, Sergeant Mike from Flags of Our Fathers, when called into Captain Severance's office, rejects the offer to become platoon general even though it puts him farther away from the bullets, because he does not want to break a promise he made to his soldiers. When Severance questions his actions, he simply replies "I made my soldiers a promise that I will bring them back to their mothers, which means I already lied to half of them and I can't lie to the rest" (Flags). Both movies show not only the sacrifices that the American soldiers make for their comrades, but also the sacrifices the Japanese make for their families.

The soldiers in Flags of Our Fathers are loyal and treat their comrades as family, as opposed to the Japanese soldiers from Iwo Jima, who are loyal only to their commanders and Emperor. When one of Doc's friends from the boat falls in battle, Doc takes full responsibility for him and tells him, "You got a girl back home? I'm gonna make sure she sees you" (Flags), while Doc "Tries to keep [the soldier's] guts from spilling through the huge wound in his belly" (Corliss). In the following scene Doc and Iggy are stationed in a trench to shoot at any sneaking Japanese soldiers, due to the fact that the Japanese are notorious for their ambush attacks. Suddenly, Doc hears a cry for help, and immediately leaves Iggy alone and goes to save his fellow comrade ignoring the gunfire that is directed at him. Doc's instincts take control when his friend Hank is shot while running, "Hank! C'mon Hank you'll be fine" (Flags) and Doc immediately tries to remove the bullet and keep his friend alive. On a larger scale, all of the soldiers act like Doc, which Jim Emerson of rogerebert.com describes as, "And Eastwood fully commits to a boots-on-the-ground POV," when their fearless leader, Sergeant Mike, is mortally wounded after being hit by an explosion. These soldiers who have been with Mike since the beginning rush

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