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Monday, February 19, 2007

"Flags of Our Fathers" Author Shines During Tallahassee's Seven Days of Opening Nights

Author James Bradley learned about his father's experience on Iwo Jima after his passing. All he knew was that his father was the middle man in the famous photo
of raising the flag on Iwo Jima.

After his father's death, he and his brother found three boxes with memorabilia. Like so many other WWII vets, Bradley's father didn't speak about the war. The memorabilia led Bradley on a hunt to learn the story of the six boys in the photo. Knowing he had a story, "Flags of Our Fathers," was the result. After almost two years and 27 rejections from publishers, Bantam published the book in 2000.

In front of a crowd of close to 500 people tonight in Tallahassee's University Center Club Ballroom, Bradley introduced us to the six boys in "Flags of Our Fathers." This, February 19, 2007, the 62nd anniversary of D-Day on Iwo Jima and part of the Seven Days of Opening Nights Festival. Among the audience members were about a dozen WWII vets and a handful who fought on Iwo Jima, including retired Marine Lt. Gen. Larry Snowden, the oldest living officer.

The famous photo inspired a nation when we needed it. Bradley said President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered 8 million copies of the photo be distributed throughout the United States. Today, it is the most reproduced image in history.

Three of the six boys raising the flag left Iwo Jima alive and they were brought into the Oval Office. According to Bradley, President Roosevelt asked them to "fight for a mountain of cash" to fund the war effort. Their goal was $14 billion in two months by encouraging Americans to buy war bonds. During their 33-city tour, the three boys raised $26 billion, equivalent to 47% of the U.S. government's federal budget in 1945.

"After 'Flags of Our Fathers,' wanted to write another book but my mother didn't raise a flag," Bradley joked. But after about 2,000 conversations with WWII vets, one grabbed his attention. He flew out to Des Monies, IA one February to meet with 76-year-old Bill.

Over cocktails, Bill told him the story about nine soldiers who were captured on Chichi Jima, an island next to Iwo Jima. Eight of them were beheaded by Japanese soldiers and one escaped to eventually become President of the United States. Nope, this wasn't a tale evolved over cocktails but one that had been sealed by the U.S. Government. The gruesome details were hidden from the families of the beheaded soldiers. The escapee is George H. Bush and the book is "Flyboys."

Bradley briefly mentioned his return to Chichi Jima with President Bush and Paula Zahn. Bush met with Japanese soldiers whom we was trying to kill by dropping bombs on them, but "it was war." And the Japanese soldiers admitted, if they had the chance, they would have killed Bush, because "it was war." After exchange of pleasantries, they went for a beer.

For the past six years, the James Bradley Peace Foundation has been sending American high school students to Japan and China for a year in hopes of building better understanding of cultures.

He's working on his next book, "The Imperial Voyage" is about the 1905 steam-voyage of William H. Taft, the then Secretary of War and Alice Roosevelt, President Theodore Roosevelt.

Check out Bradley's books, I did and have some reading to catch up on...

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