Lies of our fathers

From almost the moment of birth, we are bombarded by lies and half-truths.  And by the time we die, one might say most of our lives amounted to nothing more than a dream mixed with a dab of reality.

I was reminded of this today in reading a NYT article, “Author Now Doubts His Father was in Famed Iwo Jima Photo.”

The author of “Flags of Our Fathers,” James Bradley, was duped in believing his father, John, was one of the six fighting men seen atop Mount Suribachi, raising the American flag.  The photo by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press — shot on Feb 13, 1945, as WWII wound down — has become a symbol of patriotism and America’s fighting spirit.  The photo earned Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize.  President Harry Truman and the U.S. government promoted the photo, helping to enrich American coffers with war-bond money. Yet it has been known for many years now that the photo was a lie.  Rosenthal’s photo was the second flag-raising and staged.

Doubts were raised about John Bradley’s involvement two years ago in an article that appeared in the Omaha World Herald.  Two amateur historians studied the pants, headgear and cartridge belts on a photo taken of John Bradley at the first flag-raising.  They discovered the items did not match “John Bradley” in the second photograph.

Why it took James Bradley, the son and author, all this time to question the authenticity of his father’s role is not fully known.  The obvious reason is that the author did not want to admit his own glaring error.

The arid lands did not go without its own “hero” at Iwo Jima. There was an Arizonan in the famous second photo.  Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian whose home was on a reservation just south of Phoenix, was identified as the last Marine in line, the one with his hands off the flag.  He came home a hero, though I doubt he believed he was one. The highest mountain in the Estrella range southwest of Phoenix is named in his honor.  No evidence has yet revealed that he was not in the famous Suribachi photo.

Living in America is smoke and mirrors.  You never know for sure what is truth and what is a lie.



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