From Publishers Weekly
For most Americans, Iwo Jima begins and ends with Joe Rosenthal's famous WWII photograph: Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi. But the riveting story that freelance writer Kakehashi presents in this book, detailing the rarely-seen Japanese perspective, will give readers a new angle on the pivotal American victory. Part of the basis for Clint Eastwood's Academy Award-nominated film, Letters from Iwo Jima, Kakehashi's cogent narrative reconstructs, from family letters and interviews, the months leading up to the March 1945 battle. Kakehashi focuses primarily on Japanese General Tadamachi Kuribayashi, a man described by U.S. Commander Lt. General Holland M. Smith as the "most redoubtable" Japanese leader he faced, but who strayed far from the stereotype of the Japanese warrior. Kakehashi's sensitive portrayal of Kuribayashi is revealing and moving: "the soldier who masterminded a battle was also a husband who worried about the draft in his kitchen back home." Her description of battlefield conditions is similarly compelling: "Japanese soldiers were dying of thirst while a few kilometers away American soldiers were drinking coffee and taking showers." Though it can be repetitive, Kakehashi includes many illuminating glimpses into daily life, such as the devastation soldiers felt when they were told "from today there will be no post," evaporating the lifeline home. The haunting epilogue alone, in which Kakehashi accompanies families on a one-day memorial pilgrimage to Iwo Jima in 2004, is worth the price of the book.
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Advance praise for So Sad to Fall in Battle
“Kumiko Kakehashi’s detailed and moving new study . . . allows us to see the human face behind the fanatical Japanese of American war time myth. One finishes the book in awe of the way troops endured hellish conditions, and moved by touches of humanity that shone through their final days.”
–Philip Gabriel, author of Spirit Matters: The Transcendent in Modern Japanese Literature