After reading Roger D. McGrath’s review of Clint Eastwood’s movie on the Battle of Iwo Jima (“The Good, The Bad, the Ugly,” Vital Signs, January) and his article on Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima (Sins of Omission, February), I decided to see who was right—Eastwood or McGrath.
Although I was at Iwo from start to finish, I completely failed to relate to Flags of Our Fathers. It was, as McGrath describes, more about “Ira Hayes and the War Bond Drive” than about the battle of Iwo Jima. Perhaps that was Eastwood’s intention.
McGrath was right: Flags does not properly introduce Iwo. It could have been about any of the many World War II Pacific battles. Iwo was the hottest, bloodiest battle in recorded history—a fact that someone should have explained to Eastwood before he attempted to direct such an epic.
Last night, I saw Letters From Iwo Jima, and I was appalled. Ol’ Clint actually made the Jap general Kuribayashi the star of his movie. Kuribayashi was no hero; he was a bloodthirsty tyrant who sacrificed his 20,000-plus army because of his uncontrollable stubbornness and his phony devotion to the even more bloodthirsty Emperor Hirohito. After the first two-and-a-half or three days, Kuribayashi had to have realized it was just a matter of time: The Marines were in and well advanced. Yet he allowed his soldiers to continue being slaughtered. What a hero! Eastwood can have him.
As for the scene in which Eastwood has a Marine shooting two Japanese prisoners, I don’t believe it. Eastwood was dreaming to depict Americans committing such atrocities. It was the other way around: The Japs were the ones committing the atrocities.
McGrath wins the debate, hands down. Clint Eastwood should stick to his spaghetti Westerns—he had that darling snarl and quivering lips down pat—and leave depictions of World War II Marine battles to someone who doesn’t have such a lopsided agenda.
Arroyo Grande, CA