This is the companion piece to Letters from Iwo Jima. It’s the story about the men who were photographed raising the American flag over Iwo Jima and about he myth that arose around them. When they were photographed raising the flag it was to replace the original to prevent that from falling into the hands of some politician. There was some confusion over who was actually involved. The three men who survived were used back in the States to raise money because the country was bankrupt and in desperate need of funds. Although the men were lauded as heroes, it was a sham. The Indian was an alcoholic and seems to have been traumatised by his experience. He died of unspecified causes. One of the others ended up as a caretaker in spite of being fed on a diet of business cards when he was a “hero”. The third ended up living a fairly uneventful life.
The film combines the men touring around the States with flashbacks to events on the island. There is some overlap with Letters from Iwo Jima such as the American soldier who was dragged down into the subterranean network which honeycombed the island and killed. There was the scene in Letters from Iwo Jima in which a wounded American was brought in by a couple of Japanese soldiers.
Of the two films, I’d say that Letters from Iwo Jima is the better one. This kind of debunks a great national American myth, although it’s not the fault of the soldier who got used, but rather the politicians and businessmen who were using them. But even if the famous photograph isn’t what you think it is, it’s still a powerful image. It does, however, seem to have blighted the lives of those involved.