I expect every one and his brother will have something to say about this movie. It was less than I expected after all the Oscar hoplaa. Not exactly disappointed but not fulfilled either. I guess as they said we needed hero’s and they created some. I thought Adam Beach was terrific as Ira Hayes, the troubled Navajo Indian member of the group, and felt it was his movie. And from all accounts feel they portrayed his charterer accurately. I never knew anything about the other three guys. It was shameful how they exploited all three. Even when elevated to the ranks of hero’s the prejudice against the minorities prevailed. As in the case of The Muskogee Airmen and many others. It was a shame that another ten years or more existed before the racial barriers started to crack,even in our schools.
But I’m starting to stray again like I’m famous for. I was privileged to have know some of the guys that took part of this ugly war in both theaters. Like I have mentioned many times before, and will again and again I had four uncles involved in both theaters. Two were at Iwo Jima, one a young Purple Heart recipient in the Marines, and the other off shore on the U. S. Macon Island, a small eighteen plane carrier. I did not get to spend much time with the Marine, but as a small nine year boy he did not talk to me about his experience. The Sailor, only as he neared death in his eighties did he speak of it some. Never about actual combat but just life aboard ship and his buddies. One experience He told of how he was on the crews that took care of the armament on the planes. An one came in with a jammed fifty caliber machine gun and when they were trying to remove the gun it discharged grazing the arm of the guy working with him.
I also had the privilege of working with many older vetrans when I entered the work force after my service time. One I will never forget was named Gurddie Burelle. Old Gurdie was really a farmer at heart born and raised in Oklahoma. He worked at Alcoa in Vernon Ca. Until he could retire then returned to Oklahoma to one of two farms he owned there. I was assigned to him in what was called the dross plant, where he was to teach me one of the hottest and dirtiest jobs in the plant. Upon learning I was a resent discharged Marine, and still being a young kid he took me under his wing and proceeded to teach me more than the job. He informed me that he had been a Taxi driver for the Marines. Gurddie was a young sailor in WWII and he operated one of the landing barges. Now I always assumed these crafts were constructed of steel. In the last year or so I have discovered through the history channel that they were in fact constructed of Mahogny plywood, only the landing ramp was made of steel. I have disembarked from ship to ship and beach on these craft, and they bounce around in the water like tubs with their flat bottoms. I believe I remember him telling me made repeated landings on thirteen different occasions in the Pacific. He dreaded each run because he felt each time brought him closer to doom. Yes he was at Iwo Jima, no he did not see the flag go up, because he was asleep on ship between duty, bur saw it latter on the mount. Gurddie told me when you approached the beach you could not see in front of the boat you had to judge by looking to the front side. It was impossible to see if you were going to run over someone or drop the ramp on top of someone. He anguished over the fact that he could have save countless of floundering or downing young Marines if he just could have had the time to grab a hand full of hair. He lost a fellow Oklahoman who lived twenty-five miles from his home, who was serving as machine gunner on his craft. He said after the war the kids family bought his father to his dad’s farm. Said they wanted to talk about how his son died. He refused, he did not want to talk about it. He never bragged or exploited his service, more like a confession than any thing. I do not know why but people seem able to talk to me like that and I have no explanation for it.
I probably have known more than two dozen of these old guys. And I expect they were all just scared kids at the time doing what they had to do. And I do not believe any of them called themselves heroes. On reflection I believe heroes live in the imagination of people who were not there and never were. The grunts doing the job just want to come home and get on with the lives that the rest of us take for granted. We make heroies out of the guys doing the job, who just consider themselves just doing their job. And sometimes I think they have trouble trying to make themselves fit into the shoes we expect them to fill. We think we are honoring them and I think maybe the burden we place on their sholders is heavy to carry.