Setting the Record Straight: Iwo Jima

Clint Eastwood and Spike Lee

While no one expected Spike Lee to ever do the right thing, he has proven once again that he’s not sure when to shut his face, even when such an icon as Clint Eastwood reminds him of it. Lee recently shot back at Eastwood over a spat about the lack of blacks portrayed in the Eastwood’s films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Lee had this to say:

“First of all, the man is not my father and we’re not on a plantation either… I didn’t personally attack him, and a comment like `a guy like that should shut his face…’ come on Clint, come on. He sounds like an angry old man.

“If he wishes, I could assemble African-American men who fought at Iwo Jima and I’d like him to tell these guys that what they did was insignificant and they did not exist.

“I’m not making this up. I know history. I’m a student of history. And I know the history of Hollywood and its omission of the one million African-American men and women who contributed to World War II.”

While falling a touch short of calling Clint a racist, Lee clearly insinuates a connection between Eastwood and a plantation owner, presumably a slave owner. Add that tidbit to the massive pile of evidence that Spike Lee can’t open his mouth without making it about race.

After that update, let’s take a look at the issue at hand here – black service during the Battle of Iwo Jima. From my research, I’ve discovered that the number of black soldiers on Iwo Jima numbered under 900. We’ll, for the sake of argument and simplicity, round that up to 1,000. A significant portion of these soldiers were members of the Army’s 471st, 473rd and 476th amphibious truck companies, which are, generally, not front line soldiers (Meaning their role in the movie may have been minimized by their proximity to the events). A company can range from 62 to 190 men, meaning that about 600 of our initial number have been accounted for.

Now, the number of American soldiers deployed in Iwo Jima numbered about 110,000. That would give us a 109,000 non-black soldiers and 1,000 black soldiers. That means that under 1% of the total force on Iwo Jima was black. It is understandable, with this ethnic make-up, that in casting a movie as accurately as possible, most cast members chosen would not be black. In a group of 100 men, 1 or none would be black. In a group of 1,000 men, only one would be black.

I do not do this in any way to say that black soldiers did not play any part in Iwo Jima or to minimize their effort in the war. I am proud of every person who serves America during a time of crisis and celebrate the diversity of our Armed Forces. I fully acknowledge and appreciate their efforts during the difficult times black soldiers had in our history and I celebrate their great achievements. Many are familiar with the brave and admirable performance of the Tuskegee Airmen who achieved an amazing protection record while escorting bombers in the European Theater.

I do this simply to tell Spike Lee to shut his face. Clint Eastwood’s film catalog speaks for itself. He has directed with and starred with people of every race and sex. His movies have featured all races in all roles. Clearly, he is not out to short change anyone. I believe Eastwood when he says he reflects his stories and their time periods accurately. In the case of his recent pairing of war movies, there were no black characters. His story did not focus on imaginary characters. He wasn’t making this up. His story focused on a select group of people and he reflected them accurately. If he had made a movie about he Amphibious Truck Drivers, unquestionably they would have all been portrayed accurately. Bear in mind that despite the movie being based around the events that photographer Joel Rosenthal documented, he himself is barely in the film. Not as a slight, but as a casualty of the story.

So in closing, I would encourage Mr. Lee to stop assuming the entire world of “old men” is out to put him down or “in his place” or some other such nonsense and just continue to make movies, rather than drama. And to Mr. Eastwood, I would say to keep portraying the truth and stick to your guns. I have a gut feeling Clint would take that advice while Spike would likely dismiss me and make a veiled reference to me being some sort of slave trader.

Source of Spike Lee Comments: IMDb

Source of Amphibious Truck Company Designations: FOX News

Sound Off: Who’s side are you on? [Please keep comments respectful]

Robert Fure is many things: horror expert, ruggedly handsome man of the world, witty prose composer, and writer of his own biography page. Beneath the bravado is a scared little boy, ready to grow into an awesome man and make lies about a scared little boy inside of him. Wait a minute...

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