Flags of Our Fathersis a 2006 American war film directed, co-produced and scored by Clint Eastwood and written by William Broyles, Jr. and Paul Haggis . It is based on the book of the same name written by James Bradley and Ron Powers about the Battle of Iwo Jima , the five Marines and one Navy Corpsman who were involved in raising the flag on Iwo Jima , and the aftereffects of that event on their lives. This movie is taken from the American viewpoint of the Battle for Iwo Jima , while the sequel,Letters from Iwo Jima, is from the Japanese viewpoint of the battle, which Eastwood also directed.Letters from Iwo Jimawas released in Japan on December 9, 2006 and in the United States on December 20, 2006, two months after the release ofFlags of Our Fatherson October 20, 2006. The film is produced by Eastwood, Robert Lorenz and Steven Spielberg .
The story starts in medias res , using a complex series of flashbacks . The three surviving servicemen, Hayes, Gagnon, and Bradley, identified from the iconic flag-raising photograph atop Mount Suribachi , are recalled to the US mainland on President Roosevelt's orders, to help the 7th war bond drive. As they tour the country amid a deluge of enthusiasm, and under the guidance of a senior US Treasury official, they have a series of memory flashbacks which, for simplicity, are given here in chronological order:
The plot focuses on seven United States Marines of the 28th Marine Regiment , 5th Marine Division , Sgt. Mike Strank , Pfc. Rene Gagnon , Pfc. Ira Hayes , Cpl. Harlon Block , Pfc. Franklin Sousley , Sgt. Hank Hansen , and Pfc. Ralph Ignatowski , as well as their Navy Corpsman, PhM2. John Bradley .
In December 1944, U.S. Marines train at Camp Tarawa , Hawaii . They train by climbing a large mountain and getting in Higgins boats . The Marines then set sail across the Pacific, and it is revealed that they are headed to the small island of Iwo Jima , located less than 700 miles from the Japanese mainland. Captain Severance explains they will expect tough resistance as unlike in previous battles such as Guam , Tinian and Saipan , they will be fighting on Japanese soil. A few days later, the armada arrives off the coast of Iwo Jima and the ships of the United States Navy open fire on suspected Japanese positions. On the night before the landings, Mike is put in charge of second platoon.
The next day, February 19, 1945, the Marines hit the beach in landing craft and meet no resistance. Ralph, aka "Iggy", suspects that the Navy killed all the Japanese defenders, as do most of the Marines. After several tense minutes the Marines advance and the Japanese open fire. The battle is extremely intense, and the Marines take heavy casualties. Japanese heavy artillery opens fire upon the Marines on shore, as well as the Navy ships. After several attempts, Second Platoon takes out a Japanese pillbox which was pinning them down. They advance, as do many other Marines. The battle begins to calm down and the beachheads are secured. Two days later the Marines attack Mount Suribachi under a rain of Japanese artillery and machine gun fire, as the Navy bombards the mountain. It is here that Doc saves the lives of several Marines under fire which later earns him the Navy Cross . Finally, the mountain is secure. For the next four nights, the Marines take cover in foxholes as Japanese soldiers charge through the mist.
On February 23, the platoon under Hank's command is ordered to climb Mount Suribachi. They reach the top and hoist the American flag atop the mountain. For the first time in 1,000 years an enemy flag is raised on Japanese soil. Suddenly the platoon is attacked by Japanese sharp shooters, but the Marines kill them without losing anyone. When Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal arrives on Iwo Jima, he requests to have the flag for himself. Colonel Johnson is furious, and resolves to keep the original flag for the regiment. He orders Captain Severance to bring the flag down and replace it with another one for Forrestal to take. Severance sends Rene, who is a runner, to go with Second Platoon to the top of the mountain and switch flags. When Second Platoon reaches the top, they take down the first flag. Mike, Harlon, Doc, Ira, Rene and Franklin then raise the second flag. The event is seemingly insignificant but it is captured by combat photographer Joe Rosenthal , and the image becomes iconic .
On March 1, Second Platoon is on patrol when they are ambushed by a Japanese machine gun team. Mike orders Harlon to have his parateam take out the machine gun nest. The gunner is killed. Mike goes up to examine a dead Marine. He turns around and orders the unit to move up. Almost immediately afterward, a Navy shell lands right behind him knocking him down. In the smoke and confusion a Japanese soldier remans the machine gun and opens fire, killing the lieutenant. The machine gunner is quickly killed but Mike is critically wounded. Doc does everything he can but Mike dies within minutes of getting hit. Mike's death hits the squad hard, as they all idolized him. Things only get worse from then on. Later that day Hank is shot in the chest and dies almost instantly. Harlon is killed by machine gun fire hours later. Two nights later while Doc is helping a wounded Marine, Iggy is abducted by Japanese troops and dragged into a tunnel. His viciously mangled body is found a few days later by Doc. On March 21, as the battle is winding down Franklin is killed by machine gun fire and dies in Ira's arms. Of the eight men in the squad only three are left: Doc, Ira and Rene. A few days after Franklin's death, Doc is wounded by artillery fire while trying to save a fellow corpsman. He survives and is sent back home. On March 26, the battle ends and the U.S. Marines are victorious.
After the battle the press gets hold of the photograph of the second flag raising. It is a huge morale booster, and papers all over the country ask for prints. When Rene is asked who is in the photo, he gives five names, including his own, saying that the other four are, Mike, Doc, Franklin, but says that Hank was in the photograph (Rene thought that Hank was at the base of the flag. In reality it was Harlon). He then tells Ira he is the sixth man. Ira corrects him, saying that it was Harlon, and fiercely denies being in the photo, going as far to threaten Rene with a bayonet to his throat. Even though Rene tells him they'll be sent home, Ira won't give in. However, when Rene is threatened with being sent back to the fighting, he tells their bond tour guide Sgt. Keyes Beech that Ira was the sixth man, though not telling him that Harlon was in the photo, not Hank.
Doc, who was in the hospital, is sent stateside with Ira and Rene as part of the seventh bond tour drive to raise money for the war effort. When they go to Washington , they meet Bud Gerber of the Treasury Department , who will be their other guide. Doc notices that Hank's mother is on the list of mothers of the dead flag raisers. Ira gets mad and calls the whole thing a farce. An annoyed Bud then confesses that the country cannot afford the war and if the bond drive fails the U.S. will abandon the Pacific and their sacrifices will be for nothing. The three give in and decide not to tell anyone that Harlon was actually in the photograph.
The bond drive begins, and the three flag raisers are sent around the United States to raise money and make speeches. Ira gets drunk frequently, often breaking down from the memories that haunt him. The night the three men raise a fake flag at Soldier Field, Ira gets drunk and throws up in front of General Alexander Vandegrift , commandant of the Marine Corps. Vandegrift is furious at Bud and Keyes, telling them to send Ira back to his unit. When Keyes tells Ira he's going back, Ira confesses that he can't stand being called a hero , and that Mike was a true hero. Ira says goodbye to Doc and Rene and goes back to the Pacific. The bond drive continues.
In September the war ends and Doc, Rene and Ira go home. Ira tries to move on but is never able to escape his unwanted fame. One day in 1952 after being released from jail, he hitchhikes over 1,300 miles to Texas to see Harlon Block's family. He tells Ed Block, Harlon's father that Harlon was indeed at the base of the flag in the famous photograph. In 1954, the USMC War Memorial is dedicated and the three flag raisers see each other one last time. In 1955 Ira dies of exposure after a night of drinking. That same year Doc drove to a town where Iggy's mom lived and told her how Iggy died, though it is implied that he lied. Rene has little success as the business offers he received on the bond drive are no longer offered to him. He spends the rest of his life as a high school janitor, dying in 1979. Doc is the only successful one. He buys the funeral home he worked at before the war and runs it for the rest of his life. In 1994, as he is on his death bed, he tells his son James how after the flag raising Captain Severance took the men swimming. He then dies peacefully. In a final flashback to 1945, the men swim in the ocean after raising the flags.