Debating Iwo Jima

Movies can shape history, but one director is accusing another of misreading it

C. Jones—National Archives and Records Administration

African-American Marines on the beach at Iwo Jima

Sixty-three years after U.S. forces vanquished the Japanese and planted the Stars and Stripes atop Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi, the remote outpost in the Volcano Islands is the focus of another pitched battle. This time film directors Clint Eastwood and Spike Lee are sparring over the accuracy of Eastwood's two films about the clash, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Lee has claimed that by soft-pedaling the role of African Americans in the battle, Eastwood has whitewashed history.

"Clint Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total, and there was not...

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