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Additional Helpful Background:
      A Note on Historical Accuracy

Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Other Sections:
      Bridges to Reading
      Links to the Internet
      CCSS Anchor Standards
      Selected Awards & Cast

Go to the Learning Guide for this film.

Additional Helpful Background

A Note on Historical Accuracy

Generally, the descriptions of the fighting on the island and the hoopla of the bond drive appear reasonably accurate. The basic outlines of the factual setting accurate. In specific incidents, the film includes or refers to many of the specific incidents detailed in the book Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley. For example, the following incidents from the book are portrayed with reasonable accuracy: the disappearance, torture, and death of Corpsman Bradley's good friend, Iggy; Ira's desire not to be identified as a flag raiser and his threat to hurt Rene if Rene disclosed it; the order from the President to bring the flag raisers home for the bond drive and the flight from which Rene bumped a superior officer; the papier-mache replica of the top of Mt. Suribachi that the boys were required to climb to the cheers of an adoring audience at Soldier Field in Chicago and Ira's drunken state at the time; Ira sobbing into the arms of Mike Stark's mother and his statement to her that Mike was the best marine he ever knew; the separate occasions when corpsman Bradley and Ira Hayes each killed a Japanese soldier in hand-to-hand combat; Mike Stark's refusal of a promotion that would have removed him somewhat from the battle in order to stay with his boys; the flag raisers' insistence that raising the flag itself was not an act of heroism and that the real heroes died on the Island; the circumstances of the taking of the Photograph; the swimming scene; Rene Gagnon's desire to use the contacts from the bond tour to advance himself economically and the failure of those efforts; Ira Haye's dismissal from the tour; John Bradley's refusal to discuss the war and the flag raising; and John Bradley's instructions that people who called about the war or the Photograph were to be told that he was fishing in Canada.. Where incidents couldn't be directly described they were often alluded to. For example, the fact that Marine Technical Sergeant Keyes Beech, who was responsible for chaperoning the three Marines would drink with Ira most nights of the tour is alluded to in scenes in which he proposes toasts and brings alcoholic drinks to Ira Hayes.

A book will have more incidents and details than can be covered in a two hour movie. For example, the descriptions of the early lives of the six flag raisers is not included in the film.


Additional Discussion Questions

13.   Analyze the composition of the Photograph. Suggested Response: RESPONSE: A good response will include most of the elements discussed by Hal Buell, a former executive newsphoto editor with the Associated Press quoted in The inside story of the famous Iwo Jima photo by Thom Patterson, CNN, 2/14/15."You have this strong, diagonal line made by the flag staff. You have the flag snapping in the breeze. You have the pyramid-like shape of the Marines pushing the flag up. The men obviously are separate, but they appear as one. The blank background enhances the action by providing no distractions. Also, the photo is gifted with a softly filtered light. A very thin haze of clouds filters the light so that the shadows aren't harsh, but there is detail in all the shadows on the uniforms and the flag."

14.   Why did medics usually have a worse experience of a war than a normal infantry soldier? Suggested Response: They would see all the wounds, and their attention was focused on trying to help the wounded. An infantryman might see several of this buddies injured or killed, but his role was to move on and focus on killing the enemy.

15.   What, if any, is the relationship between dropping the atomic bomb on Japan and the Battle of Iwo Jima? Suggested Response: The Japanese defenders of Iwo Jima wanted to convince the U.S. that it would be extremely costly in terms of American lives if the U.S. invaded mainland Japan. Along with the fanatical defenders of Okinawa, the Japanese men who died on Iwo Jima were successful in this task. They thought that convincing the U.S. of the difficulties of invading the Japanese home islands would lead to a negotiated end to the war. However, they didn't know about the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb. The fact that the U.S. expected hundreds of thousands of U.S. Army and Marine casualties if there were to be an invasion of the Japanese home islands was one of the major factors in the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This shows that there will often be unexpected consequences of actions taken by countries during times of war.

16.   Why did John Bradley have to seal off the part of this life that involved service on Iwo Jima and the bond drive from the rest of his life? Suggested Response: There was no way to prevent the public's interest in him as one of the flag raisers to interfere with his life. He would have been haunted with the contradiction of having been lauded for something that he thought was inconsequential and to be honored when many of his other buddies from the unit, alive and dead, were not so honored. In a way this is ironic because Bradley was the only one of the flag raisers to be awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism in combat.

17.   What was Ira Hayes' most heroic action? What was his most important work as a Marine? Suggested Response: His most heroic action was merely going into the battle and fighting. His most important action as a Marine was his work for the bond drive because without a successful bond drive, the entire war effort could have faltered, and the flag raisers were integral to the success of the bond drive.

18.   What was John Bradley's most heroic action? What was his most important work as a Marine? Suggested Response: John Bradley's most heroic actions were caring for wounded Marines under fire. As to his most important action as a Marine, the answer is a little different than the answer with respect to Ira Hayes because Bradley was saving lives on the battle field. However, the bond drive was very important because without a successful bond drive, the entire war effort could have faltered, and the flag raisers were integral to the success of the bond drive.

19.   What is ironic about the scene in which a family of white Americans find Ira working in a field and ask for a picture. Suggested Response: It's ironic that Ira, who was most conflicted about his celebrity status remained a type of celebrity in such a shabby way.

20.   Many primitive people when shown a photograph of themselves for the first time, were very alarmed, believing that the photograph had a life of its own that sucked out the soul of the people depicted in the photograph. How does that thought apply to the Photograph and the three surviving flag raisers? Suggested Response: A strong response will contain the following thought. The Photograph had such a strong presence in the public mind that it robbed the three flag raisers of their individuality and made them into symbols of something that was different from who they were.

21.   Ira, who braved combat, failed in his most important assignment. What was that assignment and what was the failure? Why can the task that he failed at be seen as his most important assignment? Suggested Response: Ira's most important job as a Marine was presenting himself as a hero for the bond drive. He failed because he was drunk most of the tour and was not a good amabassador for the Marine Corps. The bond tour was his most important assignment because the government needed the money from the bonds to continue with the war. This had implications beyond just killing a Japanese soldier or two or twenty.

See also Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions


See Discussion Questions 1 - 7 in the Learning Guide.

Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)
(TeachWithMovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner"
and  uses The Six Pillars of Character to to organize ethical


(Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)

See Discussion Question # 1 in the Learning Guide.


See Discussion Question # 4 in the Learning Guide.

See also Discussion Questions which Explore Ethical Issues Raised by Any Fim.

Bridges to Reading:

Flags of our Fathers, by James Bradley and Letters from Iwo Jima by Kumiko Kakeshai.

Links to the Internet:

Common Core State Standards that can be Served by this Learning Guide
(Anchor Standards only)

Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: "Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.") CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.

Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 7 and 8 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.

Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.

Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.

Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

Selected Awards: 2007 Golden Globe Award Nomation: Best Director — Motion Picture: Clint Eastwood

Featured Actors: Ryan Phillippe as John "Doc" Bradley; Jesse Bradford as Rene Gagnon; Adam Beach as Ira Hayes; John Benjamin Hickey as Keyes Beech; Barry Pepper as Mike Strank; Jamie Bell as Ralph "Iggy" Ignatowski; Paul Walker as Hank Hansen; Melanie Lynskey as Pauline Harnois; Thomas McCarthy as James Bradley; Judith Ivey as Belle Block; Joseph Cross as Franklin Sousley; Benjamin Walker as Harlon Block.

Director: Clint Eastwood.


In addition to web sites which may be linked in the Guide the following resources were consulted in the preparation of this Learning Guide:

  • Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley, Bantam Books, New York, 2000;
  • The Ghosts of Iwo Jima by Robert S. Burrell, Texas A & University Press, College Station, Texas, 2011;
  • Letters from Iwo Jima by Kumiko Kakeshai, published by Phoenix imprint of Orion Books, London, U.K.;
  • "Haunting in the War Film: Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima," in Film Nation: Hollywood Looks at U.S. History by Robert Burgoyne, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2010; pp . 164 - 189;
  • "Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima: The Silence of Heroes and the Voice of History" by John M. Gourlie in New Essays on Clint Eastwood, edited by Leonard Engel, The Univerity of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, pp. 249 - 265.

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