Synopses & Reviews
A beloved story about the Greatest Generation
freshly adapted for the next generation
Berlin, 1936. The Olympic finals of the eight-oared rowing race. Germany, Italy, USA. The American boat touches the finish line first, beating all odds and sending Hitler away in a silent rage. In the midst of the Great Depression, the nine rowers showed the world what true grit really meant. They were western, working-class boys who never expected to beat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did. At the center of the tale is Joe Rantz, whose personal struggleand ultimate triumphcaptures the spirit of his generation, the one that would prove in the coming years that the Nazis could not prevail over American determination and optimism.
This deeply emotional yet easily accessible middle-grade adaptation of the New York Times bestselling The Boys in the Boat shows readers how we can find hope in the most desperate of times.
"A simple thesis emerges from all the detail worked into this touching group portrait, in a comment by John Bradley: 'The heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who didn't come back.' No reader will forget the lesson." Publishers Weekly
"The best battle book I ever read. These stories, from the time the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima enlisted, their training, and the landing and subsequent struggle, fill me with awe." Stephen Ambrose
Accolades for the adult edition of The Boys in the Boat
: #1 New York Times bestseller 2014 ABA Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year 2014 Washington State Book Award Finalist
“For those who like adventure stories straight-up, The Boys in the Boat . . . is this years closest approximation of Unbroken. . . . Its about the University of Washingtons crew team: “Nine working-class boys from the American West who at the 1936 Olympics showed the world what true grit really meant.” —The New York Times “If you imagined a great regatta of books about rowing, then Browns Boys in the Boat certainly makes the final heat.” —Boston Globe “The astonishing story of the UWs 1936 eight-oar varsity crew and its rise from obscurity to fame,…The individual stories of these young men are almost as compelling as the rise of the team itself. Brown excels at weaving those stories with the larger narrative, all culminating in the 1936 Olympic Games. . . A story this breathtaking demands an equally compelling author, and Brown does not disappoint. The narrative rises inexorably, with the final 50 pages blurring by with white-knuckled suspense as these all-American underdogs pull off the unimaginable.” —The Seattle Times “Cogent history. . . and a surprisingly suspenseful tale of triumph.” —USA Today
Now abridged for young people, Flags of Our Fathers
is the unforgettable chronicle of perhaps the most famous moment in American military history: the raising of the U. S. flag at Iwo Jima. Here is the true story behind the immortal photograph that has come to symbolize the courage and indomitable will of America.
In February 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf at Iwo Jima–and into history. The son of one of the flag raisers has written a powerful account of six very different men who came together in the heroic battle for the Pacific’s most crucial island.
About the Author
Daniel James Brown is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Boys in the Boat, as well as two other adult nonfiction books, including Under a Flaming Sky, which was a finalist for a Barnes and Noble Discover Award. He has taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford University, and now writes full-time. He lives outside Seattle, Washington.
Reading Group Guide
The Reality of War
Social studies classes study the world’s wars and the impact war has on a global society. Students learn about ancient wars and the more modern wars that have been fought in the name of freedom. They know about the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II. Some students know about the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, and the Persian Gulf War. Before the events of September 11, 2001, students in America’s schools knew little about the personal tragedies related to war. War was simply something that happened in books, in another time, and on foreign lands. Now, war surrounds them–on television, radio, and in film. Some know firsthand what it feels like to lose a parent to terrorists, and others wait eagerly in front of the television in hopes of gaining a glimpse of a family member or friend who may be in the Iraqi desert or on the streets of Baghdad. Like the main characters in the novels in this guide, the innocence of America’s children has been marked by violence. A new page of history is being written every day, and it is being done before the eyes of the world’s youngest citizens.
For this reason, it is extremely important that parents and teachers talk with children about war, and offer hope that the world might someday find a peaceful solution to global conflict. Sometimes it is difficult to find the words to explain the complex issues of war, but books are always a good way to spark understanding and conversation. This guide offers discussion for the following books: The Gadget by Paul Zindel; Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead; Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence; Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers, adapted for young people by Michael French; Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian; and For Freedom by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.
Engage students in a discussion about the recent war in Iraq, and how it was reported in the news. Divide the class into three groups, and assign each group one of the major newspapers or magazines to read. Ask that they read a few issues of the publications during the time of the war and take note of the major headlines, the views of the journalists, etc. Allow students time at the end of each week to share their findings. What conclusions can be drawn about the role of journalists in war?
1. Engage the class in a discussion about the meaning of patriotism. What is the relationship between duty and patriotism?
2. Private Tex Stanton, Second Platoon, Easy Company said, “Life was never regular again. We were changed from the day we put our feet in that sand.” (p. 69) Discuss how the Battle of Iwo Jima changed the men who fought there. Compare and contrast how each of the six flag raisers were changed.
3. Discuss the qualities of a hero. Jack Bradley never viewed himself as a hero and felt that the real heroes of the Battle of Iwo Jima were the men who gave their lives. What role did the media play in making the six flag raisers heroes? How might these six men be considered symbols of all the heroic men who fought at Iwo Jima? In the book, James Bradley discusses the difference between a hero and a celebrity. How did President Roosevelt turn these heroes into celebrities?
4. Discuss the meaning of the inscription “Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue” that is on the face of the bronze statue of the six flag raisers that was unveiled at Arlington National Cemetery on November 10, 1954. The three surviving flag raisers attended the unveiling ceremony. James Bradley states that after that day, “Never again would they meet, never again would they serve the photograph.” (p. 178) How had these men “served the photograph”? Discuss whether new generations who visit the bronze statue can fully understand the impact the photograph had on the American people when it was first published.
For more activities on Images of War, see these titles: For Freedom by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Lord of the Nutcracker by Iain Lawrence, Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead, Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers adapted for young people by Michael French, The Gadget by Paul Zindel, and Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian.
Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC.
NOTE TO TEACHERS
This guide visually represents one of the strongest attributes of Flags of Our Fathers--the use of photographs as a key to understanding history. The poster and content of this guide can be used as a visual exhibit to enhance discussions, special projects, and writing assignments.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
In Flags of Our Fathers, author James Bradley has captured the triumph, the heartbreak, and the legacy of the six young men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. Determined to learn more about his own father’s role in this historic event, Bradley conducted more than 300 interviews and used extensive primary source photographs and articles to uncover the histories of these courageous men and the realities of what they and their comrades experienced in a brutal battle on a tiny island thousands of miles away from their small-town American homes.
DISCUSSION AND WRITING
Plot Summary & Comprehension Questions
The discussion and writing section of this guide divides Flags of Our Fathers into reading assignments approximately 50 pages in length based on theme, a brief plot summary, and questions for use in classroom discussion, research, and writing.
Reading Assignment #1: Chapters 1 & 2 – Sacred Ground, All-American Boys
James Bradley introduces the battle of Iwo Jima and the six flagraisers photographed on Mt. Suribachi along with his own reasons for writing this book – to find out more about his father, one of the six flagraisers. The author introduces the backgrounds of the six all-American boys--who, taken together, form a cross-section of America at that time.
Do the six boys each represent America prior to and at the time of World War II? If so, how? Why or why not? In the biographies presented of each boy’s family and pre-War life, do you feel that you get to know them? What is most telling?. The author is determined “to bring these boys back to life [and] to let them live again in the country’s memory.” How is this process begun in these early chapters of the book?
Reading Assignment #2: Chapters 3 & 4 – America’s War, Call of Duty
James Bradley outlines the history of America’s War in the Pacific during World War II, and touches upon points in Japanese history and Japan’s mindset towards war. Important characteristics of this war are defined, such as amphibious warfare, the tactic where Marine Corps troops disembarked onto Pacific islands from ships to assault the enemy, and Bushido, or the “Way of the Warrior,” a Japanese code of honor that taught the Japanese to fight to the death for their emperor. After receiving his draft notice, Jack Bradley enlisted in the Navy and soon became a Navy Corpsman. By the end of the chapter, all six flagraisers are transferred to a special unit of the Marines to begin a year of extensive training.
How did the training of and beliefs of the Japanese warriors differ from those of the American Marines? What propelled the six flagraisers to enter the armed forces? Did they do it for the flag and for country or more personal reasons? Was their action heroism or “common virtue”?
Reading Assignment #3: Chapters 5 & 6 – Forging the Spearhead, Armada
On November 11, 1943, vigorous training began at Camp Pendleton for the six future flagraisers and thousands of other Marines. During this time, the boys learned to worship the rifle and would become one interdependent unit whose duty was to forge ahead while looking out for each other. The group, named Spearhead, shipped out of Pearl Harbor on the USS Missoula and sailed toward Iwo Jima expecting to land on February 19, 1945 – D-day. The Japanese, under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, hoped to cause an extreme number of American casualties in order to sway the American public against continuing the war. The defenses they built on Iwo Jima in support of this goal were daunting––an underground city with an extensive series of underground tunnels––and would make this the bloodiest and most costly battle of the war in terms of lives lost and injuries.
How does the author enhance the chronicle with primary documents, quotes, pictures, and passages? How is the clash of cultures between the American Marines and Japanese fighters exemplified? How would these manifest themselves when the two groups of fighters faced each other in the brutal battle for Iwo Jima?
Reading Assignment #4: Chapters 7, 8, 9, & 10 – D-Day, D-Day Plus One, D-Day Plus Two, D-Day Plus Three
James Bradley uses detailed accounts from scores of interviews to describe the events of the first horrific days of battle for the Marines at Iwo Jima. On the first day of battle, 566 men were killed, 1,755 wounded, and 99 suffered combat fatigue. Easy Company, in which the flagraisers served, turned toward taking Mt. Suribachi, the volcanic mountain that overlooked the whole of the island and offered a key vantage point for its occupier. By the end of D-Day plus three, the Japanese inside Mt. Suribachi – as well as the American Marines outside of it – were killed in record numbers.
What images, events, and people made the strongest impression on you while reading about the first days of battle? Why? How do they symbolize America’s war in the Pacific? What motivated the Marines to fight on and inspired their incredible feats of valor in the heat of battle
Activity: Have students write their impressions of war before beginning Flags of Our Fathers. After reading these chapters, have students write their impressions of war again. Ask students to compare and contrast their reactions before and after reading the detailed chapters of the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Reading Assignment #5: Chapters 11, 12, & 13 – “So Every Son of a Bitch on This Whole Cruddy Island Can See It!”, Myths, “Like Hell with the Fire Out”
Two flagraisings marked the conquering of Mt. Suribachi after four long days of battle. The second flagraising, the replacement flagraising, is captured in the celebrated photograph of six boys hoisting the American flag in the wind. The photograph instantly became a sensation in the United States, and news articles often romanticized the Iwo Jima and flagraising experience. Myths abounded, but back at Iwo Jima, the fighting continued. Mike, Harlon, and Franklin were killed on Iwo Jima island in the ensuing days. The fighting finally ceased on March 26, 1945. Of the 22,000 Japanese defending the island, 21,000 died and an astounding 26,000––of the 80,000 Marines who went ashore––were killed or wounded.
Have students research and bring to class news articles or photographs from the battle of Iwo Jima or the War in the Pacific. First have students summarize what they found. Why did they choose the article? Is it an accurate account based on the knowledge gained from Flags of Our Fathers? How does the media affect domestic and world events? Which is more powerful in affecting world events – people, government, or media?
Reading Assignment #6: Chapters 14, 15, & 16 – Antigo, Coming Home, The Mighty 7th
James Bradley interrupts the chronological tracing of the lives of the six flagraisers with a closer look at his own father’s efforts to forget Iwo Jima, The Photograph and the fame that went along with it. One way that John Bradley tried to achieve this was by refusing interviews and maintaining a self-imposed silence about the events. The Photograph brought America heroes and hope, and The Treasury Department sought to use its romantic image to raise funds for the war effort in a 7th Bond Tour. The surviving flagraisers were toured across the country, raising millions of dollars, and coping with the after effects of the battle.
How do the three veterans compare and contrast in their initial efforts to cope with the aftershock of Iwo Jima? How did The Photograph help and harm their healing? What did The Photograph bring to America? How does The Photograph exemplify both the romantic image and the realistic image of the battle of Iwo Jima?
Reading Assignment #7: Chapters 17, 18, 19, & 20 – A Conflict of Honor, Movies and Monuments, Casualties of War, Common Virtue
Upon their return, the surviving flagraisers face challenges and hardships. Ira suffers from alcoholism and eventually dies at the age of 32. Rene suffers from frustration as he grapples with his and his wife’s need to capitalize on the fame of being a flagraiser. John Bradley continues to maintain his silence, and is the only flagraiser to have a “normal” lifespan, passing away in 1994. In 1949, John Wayne stars in the Sands of Iwo Jima, which included the real-life flagraisers in scenes at the end of the movie; this casting was a public relations move. Sculptor Felix de Weldon sculpts The Photograph into America’s memory by building a bronze statue of the Mt. Suribachi flagraising. The monument was unveiled in Arlington National Cemetery on November 10, 1954.
According to Flags of Our Fathers, what motivates young men to such valor? Who are the true heroes of Iwo Jima? What does it say about the war, the men, and our country that the only name on the statue in Arlington National Cemetery is that of the sculptor? What lessons can be learned from Flags of Our Fathers?
Group Research--Flags of Our Fathers offers a vivid picture of the American role in the battle of Iwo Jima and opens the door to studying more about America’s War in the Pacific. Divide the class into teams of World War II researchers. Topics may include: Japanese History from the Meiji Restoration until 1941; America’s Homefront; Japanese Americans during WWII; Pacific Propaganda; the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Pearl Harbor, and more. Students should research their topic, write essays and present their findings with their teams.
What is a hero? Who is a hero? --Have students use the discussion of heroism in Flags of Our Fathers and use critical thinking skills to reflect and answer the question What is a hero? Have students research at least three other sources besides Flags of Our Fathers and choose a hero from history. Using historical evidence, students should write an essay answering the question--Who is a hero?
Flagraising in the 21st Century--Many news stories compared the flagraising at Ground Zero in New York City after the September 11th terrorist attacks to the flagraising at Iwo Jima. Have students compare and contrast the two flagraisings--the events surrounding each photograph, the people, the hope the act inspired--using newspaper articles and printed interviews.
BEYOND THE BOOK
Using the Web – Have students visit www.jamesbradley.com and www.iwojima.com for an in-depth look at documents, films, stamps and photos of Iwo Jima. Teachers and students may use this site as a resource guide or as an in-class learning tool for some of the projects in this guide.
Interdisciplinary Activity – The flagraisers’ letters offer a unique opportunity for the English and Social Studies classrooms to work simultaneously. Using at least three pieces of evidence from Flags of Our Fathers, have students re-create a Marine’s letter home from the perspective of one of the six flagraisers. At the same time, students in the social studies classroom can practice their internet and library researching skills to find letters written during the War in the Pacific by other military personnel. Students should share their findings in groups. Students can discuss many possible topics – such as the effects of the letter on themselves, on society, and on history.
Monuments – Have students examine the concept of monuments, a crucial ingredient in remembering history’s lessons. Prior to research, have students discuss the following questions: What is the purpose of a monument? What elements should be incorporated in a monument to commemorate events in history? Students can research existing monuments to learn more about motivation, message, and the use of historical data in building monuments. Have students create their own monument for The War in the Pacific with a rationale for its construction, elements to be included/excluded.
ABOUT THIS GUIDE
Flags of Our Fathers is an exceptional addition to any social studies classroom as Bradley presents the true story behind the immortal photograph that has come to symbolize the courage and indomitable will of America. Teachers can use this work in multiple ways as they demonstrate the work of a true historian while enriching a World War II or American History curriculum. The chronicle can also be used alongside an English curriculum focusing on identity and valor, the difference between truth and myth, the meaning of being a hero, and the essence of the human experience of war.