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So Sad To Fall In Battle: An Account of War Based on General Tadamichi Kuribayashi's Letters from Iwo Jima Hardcover – January 9, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press; First Edition edition (January 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891419039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891419037
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,370,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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

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Customer Reviews

Well written book, very moving at times and informative to the teeth.
In this excellent study, author Kumiko Kakehashi examines the battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective.
George J. Heidemark
The Enemy are People too Kumiko Kakehashi's So Sad to Fall in Battle is an absolutely wonderful read.
Robert C. Olson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey T. Munson on May 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Freelance Japanese writer Kumiko Kakehashi has done a masterful job in describing the battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese soldier; more precisely, from the perspective of Lt. Gen. Tadamachi Kuribayashi, the commander of the Japanese garrison based on Iwo Jima.

Throughout the book, the author describes Kuribayashi as a caring man who was devoted not only to his family, but to his fellow soldiers as well. His deep-seeded feelings for his family's well-being are brought to life by the letters he sent to them from the front. Kuribayashi was in his 50's when he was called to lead the Japanese forces on Iwo Jima. he left a wife and three young children at home in Tokyo. Despite being given a virtual death sentence by his assignment, he still maintained contact with his family through his numerous letters.

Kuribayashi's feelings about his family are evident throughout his letters. His concern shows regarding even small, insignificant events. For example, one letter describes his concern over his family's drafty house and his regret that he was unable to fix the problem before leaving. He always told his children to obey their mother, and he told his wife to remain strong and not to worry about what others think.

As a military commander, Kuribayashi was different from other Japanese generals. He had a genuine concern for his men, and he refused to think of them as being expendable. Rather, he refused to allow them to use the banzai charge in battle. He also insisted on forgoing any special treatment his rank may have brought him. Instead, he ate the same food rations as his soldiers did, and he lived in an underground bunker. He also walked all over Iwo Jima to coordinate the building of defensive positions.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mike Cunha VINE VOICE on April 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Reading So Sad to Fall in Battle, one grasps that Kumiko Kakehashi is not a military historian. This however, is no weakness but rather a strength on her part as she chronicles the thoughts, feelings and ideas of the Imperial Japanese Army commander and some of his men who fought and fell on a twenty-two kilometers squared patch of hell on earth named Iwo Jima. Orders of battle and which army corps was staffed by what division appear only as necessary as it may be to tell the book's tragic story: that of a brilliant general who led an extraordinary group of soldiers in a hopelessly merciless battle that they never had a chance of winning.

Kakehashi has instead focused on one of the great unknowns of the Second World War: the thoughts and feelings of the Japanese soldiers who fought in one of the war's last apocalyptic struggles. She narrows that focus even more to shed light on a further and perhaps greater unknown, the man who was Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi.

Before Ken Watanabe's sublime portrayal of LTG Kuribayashi in Clint Eastwood's heartbreaking "Letters From Iwo Jima" (the book was an inspiration for the film), this figure was probably little known outside of history circles or the family, friends and former soldiers this man left behind. In the author's work this maverick tactician is brought back through the letters he penned to his family before the battle that claimed his life. What one learns is that besides being extremely unorthodox in his battle planning it was not just his realist military mind that set him apart from his peers, but his sense of duty and heartfelt compassion towards the men serving under him and the overflowing love he had for his wife and children. Kuribayashi himself knew that the letters he wrote from Iwo Jima would be his last.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on February 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
So Sad To Fall In Battle is a historical portrayal of one of the most respected adversaries who fought in the Pacific War on Iwo Jimo against the United States--General Tadamichi Kuribayashi.

Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith (Howlin' Mad Smith) considered Gen. Kuribayashi's ground organization far more superior to the one he had seen in France in WWI and observers said it excelled German ground organization in WWII.

General Smith went on to say that most Japanese commanders were just names and disappeared in anonymity. However Gen. Kuribayashi's personality was written deep in the underground defenses he devised for Iwo Jimo. The American military and other POWs regarded prisoners from the Iwo Jima conflict with a mixture of fear and respect for how fiercely they fought.

Yet none knew these valiant fighters had been abandoned by the Imperial General Headquarters to face the enemy alone. As the American invasion grew nearer to Japan, Iwo Jima was suddenly labeled worthless and all naval and air support was cut off. When Headquarters changed their overall strategy, they sacrificed General Kuribayashi and his soldiers.

General Tadamichi Kuribayashi's letters from Iwo Jima reveal a man who foresaw his imminent death yet encouraged his wife and children to be strong, positive and live life through all of its joys and tragedies. He went on to tell his wife Yoshii, to not worry about keeping up appearances or what other people may say about her. It was more important that she believe in herself and life her life to the fullest.

Throughout the 41 letters he sent to his family, General Kuribayashi revealed that this assignment to defend Iwo Jima was an honor because it was considered to be the most crucial territory to protect for Japan.
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