By contrast, the toughness of World War II America is quite stunning 60 years out. Iwo Jima is an island about one quarter the size of Manhattan, on which 22,000 Japanese defenders were securely dug in. The campaign was described as "throwing human flesh against reinforced concrete." But it was even more horrible and uglier than that -- for both sides. To get at the Japanese who were below ground firing at the unprotected Americans, the Marines poured gasoline into the catacombs. The Marine assault on the island took 36 days. The Japanese knew every inch of the island, and moved through and under it. Even when Marines tried to sleep, they never knew when they might be ambushed.
Seventy thousand Marines were eventually able to secure the island and raise the flag over Mt. Suribachi. But the victory claimed the lives of 6,800 Americans and wounded more than 19,000. Of the 22,000 Japanese on the island, only 1,083 survived. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz said of that campaign, "Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue." Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines and sailors for actions on Iwo. Of the thousands who lie buried there, James Bradley relates in "Flags of Our Fathers" that someone chiseled the followed message on the gate of the cemetery: "When you go home/Tell them for us and say/For your tomorrow/We gave our today."
Intellectuals, pundits, journalists and entertainers have greatly changed in the intervening 60 years. It is a relief to see, however, that our soldiers have not.