Flags of Our Fathers

Flags of Our Fathers Summary and Analysis of Chapters 8, 9, and 10


The boys of Easy Company spend a stressful night above the western beaches of Iwo Jima. Japanese mortar fire bombards them throughout the night. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 28th Regiment men continue their advance toward Mount Suribachi, while Easy Company is assigned to retrace its steps eastward to assume a backup position for the 2nd Battalion. Meanwhile, the beach continues to overflow with dead bodies, which are buried in mass graves. At 4pm, Easy Company receives orders to head to the front lines with the 2nd and 3rd Platoons. They are immediately under intense enemy fire.

One of the most courageous soldiers of the 3rd Platoon was Don Ruhl, who came face to face with Japanese soldiers, charging them and killing them in person to person combat. He risks his own life to dash and drag a wounded soldier from safety. Later in the day, he crawls inside an enemy tunnel with Lieutenant Keith Wells to procure woolen blankets for his injured buddies. By the end of D-Day Plus One, the 4th and 5th divisions controlled a mile and a half of the island but had suffered a total of about 3,500 casualties. Night falls again and the boys try to fall asleep, still under constant fire.

The next morning, American planes bomb the island. The Marines on the ground are expecting tanks to precede them in their charge, but the tanks are nowhere in sight; they are delayed by rearming and refueling problems. Harry the Horse decides to charge without them at 8:30am, a half-hour after the scheduled charge. Lieutenant Keith Wells leads the charge, without ordering anyone to follow him, but they do. Don Ruhl sacrifices his own life by throwing himself on a grenade to save the soldier next to him.

Doc Bradley runs through the chaos, tending to his fellow Marines being blown to bits around him. Carrying his "Unit-3" first-aid bag, he is identifiable as a target for the Japanese: by taking him out, they would ensure that his aid could not reach American soldiers in need. He earns the Navy Cross by dragging the fellow Marine to safety, exposing himself in the process. The boy was losing blood too quickly to be moved right away, so Doc administers aid in the middle of the battlefield.

Lieutenant Ed Pennel is injured when a shell explodes between his legs, and he lies in the middle of the battle waiting for help until nightfall before he is evacuated to an offshore hospital ship. Lieutenant Keith Wells demonstrates his valor by refusing evacuation even after he is the victim of close-in mortar fire. Finally, he turns command of the 3rd Platoon over to Platoon Sergeant Ernest Boots Thomas. Boots Thomas immediately demonstrates his bravery by sprinting back and forth to direct tanks' fire. He identifies the weak spot in the defensive line on Suribachi and leads the breakthrough to the mountain.

As night falls on the third day of battle, there is a Japanese air raid on the ships offshore. On land, Japanese soldiers wielding grenades once again terrorize the Marines. It has been raining, but on the morning of D-Day Plus Three, the day the Marines plan to take Mount Suribachi, the rain becomes more intense and cold. Navy carrier bombers mistake the Americans on the ground for Japanese and nearly wipe them out before Captain Severance is able to get in touch with Harry the Horse Liversedge's radio and ward them off.

American Marines, who can hear the enemy moving and talking beneath the ground, now surround Mount Suribachi. As night falls on the fourth day of fighting, half of the remaining Japanese soldiers voluntarily abandon the mountain fortress. Colonel Kanehiko Atsuchi, the commanding officer of Mount Suribachi, gives the order to abandon the mountain, but Marines slaughtered most of the 150 Japanese soldiers on their way to join forces with their comrades on the north of the island. The news reaches the Japanese navy guard headquarters as well as Harry the Horse Liversedge that Mount Suribachi has fallen.


At the end of Chapter 8, Bradley introduces a metaphor that he will continue to refer to throughout his description of the battle: that of comparing Iwo Jima to a "madman's haunted house." This metaphor emphasizes the terror and insanity of the nights the American soldiers spent on the island, terrorized by "phantoms," Japanese soldiers hidden inside the island and Mount Suribachi. In Chapter 9, Bradley writes of the third night spent on Iwo Jima, "On this night, the madman in the haunted house unleashed all his ghouls."

Bradley often uses the technique of repetition of words and phrases to emphasize the drama of the moment. In Chapter 9, when the Marines realize the tanks are not arriving to precede them in their charge, the phrase "No tanks" is repeated: "No tanks; no large bulky shapes to protect the boys against fire from the pillboxes as they ran. No tanks; nothing but bodies against bullets." In describing the third night spent on Iwo Jima, Bradley writes, "On this night, the fear took on more justification than ever before. On this night, the madman in the haunted house unleashed all his ghouls." The repetition of the phrase "On this night" emphasizes the intensity of the terror the Marines experienced at the hands of the Japanese soldiers who infiltrated their camps.

Bradley alternates between third-person and first-person narrative, sometimes linking himself to the stories he tells of battle through the connection of his father. For instance, in Chapter 9, he reports, "And then my father stood up into the merciless firestorm and pulled the wounded Marine back across the thirty yards to safety by himself." Bradley often uses first-person to demonstrate a pride in his father.

The theme of Mothers, so important to the six flag raisers, is also significant with relation to the minor characters. For instance, Chapter 9 ends with one soldier remembering his buddy's last words as he died at the hands of Japanese infiltrators on the third night on Iwo Jima: "Mom! Mom! He's killing me! Mom, he's killing me!" In previous chapters, Bradley has related that regardless of what country he is fighting for, a soldier's last word is always, "Mother!"

The theme of individual versus country is explored with relation to the Japanese in these chapters. During the air raid in Chapter 9, an American on board a ship offshore of Iwo Jima reports that he "could see the face of the Japanese pilot. You could see the fear of death on his face." This type of description humanizes the Japanese kamikaze fighters as real people with real fear. Likewise, as Bradley tells of the soldiers ordered by Colonel Kanehiko Atsuchi to abandon Mount Suribachi, their plight is unfortunate at the hands of the Japanese navy guard, which punishes them for surrendering.