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by Beret E. Strong
& John Tweedy
Landlocked Films 2001
Interviews with veterans
Color WWII footage
Cover Price: $34.00
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|Iwo Jima: Memories in Sand
Survivors return to honor their dead, reconcile with their enemy and reflect on their lives marked by war
This video explores recollections of veterans of the fighting on Iwo Jima in a well made documentary. Filmed around the fiftieth anniversary remembrance celebration on the island, the symbol of the sand brings veterans back a half century to the brutal landing and appalling casualties suffered to take this small island.
The epic battle for Iwo Jima was initiated to seize the airfield for air support for B-29 bombing raids to Japan and to serve as an emergency strip. Before it could be recaptured, 60,000 US troops which landed on the island, 26,000 were casualties in the 33 days of fighting. Of the 22,000 Japanese defending the island in networks of tunnels and bunkers, only about a thousands survived the battle.
One of the most haunting aspects of the video is the WWII color footage utilized. Much of it shows American casualties and realities of war, footage that will be new to most due to censorship. The over saturated and surreal color footage often looks like it was filmed by Hollywood, and its hard to believe that the footage is authentic, compared to familiar and carefully edited black and white newsreel footage one is accustomed to seeing in WWII documentaries.
Interesting facts, like the letter each Marine was required to write to his family prior to the invasion. These letters are haunting instructions "I want to talk my insurance money and bonds to buy a new house. Do what you want with my belongings and say good-bye to everyone for me"
The video contains moving interviews with many US Marine veterans who candidly share their recollections about the fighting. One recalls "So many bodies. A farm boy from Nebraska is not used to seeing such things." Or another who recalls piling bodies around for cover because the ground was too hard to dig into.
Orphaned son Anderson Giles recalls a story his father told about a revered and combat hardened Sergeant who everyone looked up to as the supreme symbol of manhood and leadership "About the second day after seeing all the carnage, he snapped mentally, and got up and walked down the beach calling his dog. The human spirit broke, it had taken all it could"
Particularly poignant is a letter to a Japanese soldier on Iwo Jima wishing them good luck in the battle and death, and a Japanese defender's letter to his family, that bluntly states his epitaph: "If Tokyo is raided, then that means your father is dead". American veterans recall how loud speakers blared how lucky they were to be the first troops to invade a home island of Japan, while situations on the black sand beach said otherwise.
This work is especially interesting because the film maker Beret Strong goes beyond the expected interviews with simply American battle veterans, to Japanese letters and the wife on the home front, who recalls "I almost lost my faith when I heard he was on Iwo Jima." These perspective move the battle out of just military history and reveals their impact on the world.
The video has many more moving interviews with veterans who break down in tears from the painful memories, and hope for the future. The honesty of this work was a refreshing and sobering welcome to the edited and glossy images of the war sometimes presented in documentaries. This video is different, this video is real.
For anyone interested in an excellent history of the assault on Iwo Jima, this tape is recommend for its beautiful presentation, depth of interviews and haunting color footage of the battle.
Review by Justin Taylan
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