Letters from Iwo Jima : The Japanese Eyewitness Stories That Inspired Clint Eastwood's Film, Paperback

Letters from Iwo Jima : The Japanese Eyewitness Stories That Inspired Clint Eastwood's Film Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Based on the letters that inspired Clint Eastwood's film LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA reveals the true story of the Battle of Iwo Jima, the subject of two films directed by Clint Eastwood.

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS tells the story of the US Marines who raised the flag above the island: the iconic image of the war with Japan.

His other film, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA tells the story from Japanese point of view.

At the heart of the story is the maverick general Tadamichi Kuriyabashi, devoted family man, brilliant leader and the first man on the island to know they were all going to die. As Clint Eastwood comments, 'General Kuribayashi was a unique guy.

He liked America. He thought it was a mistake to go to war. . America was too big an industrial complex.' Unlike most Japanese officers, he had travelled abroad, spent time in America, and was under no illusions as to the ultimate end.

He fought and died to delay the Americans for as long as he could.

He knew that once the island fell, it would be used as an airbase by US bombers to strike at Tokyo. His unorthodox methods made this the fiercest battle the US Marines have ever faced, and he sustained resistance far longer than anyone believed possible. Kumiko Kakehashi's heart-rending account is based on the letters written home by the doomed soldiers on the island, mostly family men, conscripted late in the war.

She reveals a very different Japanese army from the popular image.

It is an incredibly moving portrayal of men determined to resist to the last breath, despite their profound opposition to the regime that led them into war.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Diaries, letters & journals
  • ISBN: 9780753823019



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I was hoping, from the title, that this would be a more accessible version of [Kamikaze Diaries]. In fact, it's a book about the battle of Iwo Jima, and especially about the Japanese commander there, General Kuribayashi (although there is a chapter of letters from ordinary soldiers, as well as extracts from battlefield memoirs and interviews with survivors and relatives). Kuribayashi was sent to command 20,000 men in a near-suicide mission (95% of the Japanese soldiers died on the island) in an almost literally Hellish landscape - Iwo Jima is a volcanic island, so little grew there even before the battle, and there were no sources of fresh water. (Japanese soldiers heard rumours that the American troops were supplied with water in cans, and wondered whether such a thing was possible). Kuribayashi comes across as a remarkable man. He had spent some time in the US and understood that the war was unwinnable for Japan, and he made a point of sharing the same rations and conditions as his men - one canteen of brackish water a day. At the same time, he inspired his men to fight to the bitter end, refusing them the traditional glorious and pointless banzai charge in favour of the bitter, painful slog of guerilla warfare. This account makes it very clear why Iwo Jima has such a significant role in US memories of the campaign. It seems stranger that (at least according to Kakehashi) there is less knowledge about the battle in Japan. The only small downside is that Kakehashi is not a historian - she's a journalist, specialising in human interest stories. This meant that occasionally I missed the additional depth or context. However, overall this was a moving, vivid and highly readable introduction to this piece of history. Recommended for: anyone who would like to know more about this battle and/or the final stages of the conflict in Japan.