The story took place in the Iwo Jima island during the World War 2 against Japan. The commercial side of the selling the war bonds was the main controversial object behind the soldiers’ raising the flags on top of the island’s peak.
Many US soldiers died when the attack of the island took place in 1945. In order to capture the nationalism of the people, the President (FDR and then Truman) took advantage of the raising of the flags and the three surviving soldiers to sell War Bonds. The irony is that these supposedly heroes were not the original flag raiser. It was the 2nd shot. Most of the soldiers who raised the first flag were dead due to the fierce battle to take over the island against the Japanese.
There are several stories in this movie. The story of the violent battle. The stories of the three men who went on the bond selling tour after being hailed as the heroes in raising the flag. Hayes, the Indian “Chief”, were so struck by the guilt of surviving the battle and not living up to the hero statue. He turned to alcohol and drank himself to death. The self-righteous runner, Gagnon, was not able to sustain his fame and was soon forgotten and could only work as a janitor. The father of the narrator, Doc, did not even mention about the flag raising to his own children until nearing his death on the death bed. Also, Doc took up the funeral service business after the war, just like what he did for his fellow soldiers.
The movie was full of war graphic scenes, which serve as a reminder how terrible and ugly things could look for those in the middle of it. Of course, it also serves as the warning for the future generations about wars. The movie doesn’t flow very well; it goes back and forth but can be followed fairly easily.
At the end, it was reminded that most soldiers were not really fighting for the country but for his fellow soldiers, who are near them and are being depended on by one another. The movie shows that a war is a nasty business especially for the politics and self interests.