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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Flags of Our Fathers can be found here.
It is based on the book Flags of Our Fathers (2000) by American authors James Bradley and Ron Powers. It tells the story of the raising of the American flag on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima during World War II.
Flags of Our Fathers portrays the Battle of Iwo Jima from the American viewpoint and is a companion piece to Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), which depicts the same battle from the Japanese perspective. Both films are directed by Clint Eastwood.
Iwo Jima (now Iwo To) is a volcano Island in the northwest Pacific Ocean south of Japan and east of Taiwan.
Although sparsely inhabited, Iwo Jima was the site of several airfields that hindered U.S. bombing missions to Tokyo. Once the bases were secured, the U.S. could use the bases for an invasion of the Japanese mainland.
Understand it? No. Both films can be viewed as stand-alone movies. However, it's better to watch them both (no matter the order), because the point of making them was to show different points of view of one event. Most critics agree that both films manage to make the audience respect both the American and Japanese points of view.
Several reasons: (1) They were in a convoy going 10-12 knots. It would be absurd for a convoy, with anywhere from 10-50 ships, surrounded by 3-8 destroyers to stop in mid-ocean and mill around trying to find one man. Not only was a convoy required to stay on schedule; but stopping would put the whole convoy at risk for air and submarine attack. (2) Accordingly, standard naval procedure was for a transport that lost a man overboard to hoist a flag (or send message via other means) indicating man overboard. The last ships in the convoy and the trailing destroyers would then try to locate him and pick him up. In fact, usually one merchant ship or destroyer at the tail end of the convoy was given the task of trying to pick up any man overboard. (3) In real life, both Navy and Marine NCOs and Officers would have ordered the men not to hang off the rigging and put any violators on report. (4) The chances of surviving after falling off a ship in convoy were small despite the best of efforts. The ocean is big and one man insignificant. Pilots who ditched next to destroyers or carriers were often never found, despite men seeing them get out of their planes OK. According to the book "The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945" by John Toland, the man was in fact picked up by a following support ship.
They ARE shown. Eastwood shows AA Marines on board ship during the convoy sequence. Additionally, a wounded African American Marine is seen on a stretcher during the beach landing sequence. This small role is historically accurate. The Marine Corps was segregated during WW II. Of the 60,000 Marines on Iwo Jima no more 600 were AA. Black Marines on Iwo Jima were mainly support troops, and primarily used to haul ammunition and other supplies from the beach to the front. Of the 6,000 Marines killed on Iwo Jima, two were African American.
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