I was lucky enough to hear James Bradley speak at a luncheon today and was motivated to read his bestselling book Flags of Our Fathers (the autographed copy will make it easier). Bradley told some of the amazing background of the gut wrenching history behind the battle of Iwo Jima and the men who raised the flag in that famous photograph. The small amount of biographical information he was able to communicate over lunch was amazing by itself. All to often we forget the almost incomprehensible actions that war involves. These young men were taken from their families and communities and asked to sacrifice everything. At Iwo Jima the Marines had to attempt an amphibious assault on a heavily armed island and then fight an enemy hidden underground and in nearly impenetrable battle stations. As is true of most who come back from war, the soldiers struggled to talk about the horror that involved; most didn’t even to talk to their closest family. Mr. Bradley knew nothing about his father’s experience until after he had passed away and he began to research the history. In times like ours it is worth revisiting and remembering what generations in the past have had to face.
What is also quite remarkable is the effort it took to get the book published. Mr. Bradley had to go through dozens of agents to get one who would take him on as a client. Once he had an agent, dozens of publishers said no as well. It was only the dedication and faith of Mr. Bradley that this story got told at all. Bradley wasn’t just another academic looking to get a history book published, he was telling the story of his father and had previously unavailable material from family sources on this amazing event. Publishing is obviously a difficult business, and it is easy to second guess, but just think what those agents and publishers must think now. Flag of Our Fathers was a New York Times Best Seller and a runaway hit. Just to prove it was no fluke, Bradley wrote Flyboys the true story of nine American airmen who were shot down over Chichi Jima during WW II. Eight were executed by the Japanese, while the ninth was rescued; the ninth was President George Bush (41). It too is a bestseller.
Bradley is a entertaining speaker and the history involved is well worth remembering. I am glad I had the chance to hear him speak and I look forward to reading the book. Of course, I will let you know what I think when I am finished . . .