Mark Khan
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5 Mushroom Heads
The Battle of Iwo Jima by Mark Khan

Iwo Jima is probably the most famous battle in the Pacific theatre in World War Two. It gave birth to one of the world’s most iconic photos – that of US Marines raising the US flag on Mount Suribachi, signalling the end of that brutal campaign.
That, along with watching the HBO series, “The Pacific,” was pretty much all I knew about the tiny island, measuring just eight square miles.

Those eight square miles cost American forces 26,000 casualties, with 6,800 dead. The Japanese lost around 22,000 dead, with some 12,000 still unrecovered as recently as 2011. Just 216 Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner during the whole 36-day campaign.

Those 216 were probably treated as pariahs when they returned home, because death before dishonour was more than a trite motto, it was a way of life for the Japanese. To sully oneself and one’s honour by surrendering was beyond the pale.

“The Battle of Iwo Jima,” by Mark Khan is one volume in the “Images of War” series, by Frontline Books. Whilst it documents the campaign in its entirety, where it really shines is the liberally scattered photos throughout the book. A lot of the photos are taken during the combat phases of operations and the slice of history they afford is startling.

Marines rushing Japanese MG posts are caught on camera, plumes of dirt ping waist-high as Japanese rounds impact near their feet. Naval guns are captured firing broadsides at entrenched defenders, the muzzle flashes big as houses. Tired and wounded marines, suffering from shrapnel or bullet wounds stare at the camera in a way that conveys a thousand memories, all of them bad.

One of the great features about this book is that the text and the photos marry up and give a clear illustration of conditions at that time in the campaign. The photos haven’t been skimped on and the text is clear and easy to read. It doesn’t go for dry ORBAT listing, but prefers a clear, educational delivery, which, along with a map that is printed at various times in the book as frontlines change provide a comprehensive overview of the battle.

It could’ve been a hundred pages thicker and it wouldn’t have been a problem for me, but it stands on its own merits of clarity, terrific photos and not overstaying its welcome.

Highly recommended

5 out of 5 flamethrowers.
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