It is 60 years since Marines landed on Iwo Jima in February 1945. Since then, the battle has become a symbol of many things. The flag raising atop Mount Suribachi has become an icon. From the Marine Corps War Memorial to license plates, it is the most reproduced event of World War II.
The events of the flag raising became part of John Wayne's film, The Sands of Iwo Jima. For the generation of young Americans who came of age in the 50s and 60s, this film embodied the Marine Corps like no other. Even into the 80s, the phrase, "You think you're John Wayne," could often be heard on Marine bases all over the world.
But Iwo Jima was so much more than a picture or a movie. The island was just a place, but what happened there during 36 days in 1945 was something special. On a hellish machine-age battlefield, young men under fire accomplished the impossible; they hammered their bodies against concrete and steel. Against all odds, the concrete and steel gave way. It could not hold against a few good men.
When New York firefighters raised the flag over the ruins of the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks of 2001, a photographer snapped their picture. Almost instantly, this picture was compared to the Iwo Jima flag raising photo. Even Americans who weren't history buffs understood it was a tough battle against an unforgiving enemy. Our people took heart from the icon–"We did it before, we can do it again."
The true icon of of Iwo Jima wasn't a picture. The icon was a young skinny kid who chewed gum and listened to Glenn Miller. The icon was a Marine from somewhere in America who found it in himself to keep going no matter what. We owe him a debt we can never repay. Semper Fidelis.
RABBI ROLAND GITTELSOHN'S
IWO JIMA EULOGY
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Henry V by William Shakespeare
PHOTO CREDITS: USMC Photos
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