"Why are you doing this?"
Very good question, one that certainly crossed my mind many times in the two years that it took to produce War Of Our Fathers and the ten years since. Three shooting trips, six months overseas, nine visits to Japan, 120,000 air miles, 10,000 miles in automobiles...forty or fifty mosquito bites on my forearms in one memorable hour in a malarial swamp outside Madang, Papua New Guinea.
Why are you doing this?
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Well, for one thing, so I'd have the opportunity to stand in that nasty little pond and get to see my first really intact World War II aircraft in its natural setting. The plane was a Japanese light bomber, mostly just a silvery shell by 1990, situated in what appeared to be a wildly overgrown, limitless greenhouse.
It was a magical sight.
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My father served briefly in the Pacific Theater in World War II, and it was through him that, as a child, I first became acquainted with some of the history of that war.
Like most servicemen and women, even those stationed overseas, my father did not participate in combat. He never fired a shot in anger, and was never sure that any were specifically aimed at him. His closest brushes with death were aviation mishaps that, while deadly serious when they happened, the passage of time and the great blessing of survival long ago turned into fond memories.
The Army Air Force was good to Allan Marin. He earned within it the rank of Captain, was given the opportunity to further his education, both formal and informal, and at the end of the war experienced the great adventure of serving his country overseas as an officer in an army that had, effectively, conquered the world.
On the 30th of August, 1945, he arrived at Atsugi Air base outside Tokyo aboard the 27th American aircraft to land -- six hours before General Douglas MacArthur walked down the ladder of his personal aircraft "Battan". My father helped prepare for MacArthur's arrival, a job and working environment that I am reliably informed he found fascinating and, basically, enjoyable.
August 30th, 1945, he celebrated his birthday in Tokyo. He was thirty three years old.
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Like many other veterans, and certainly more than any supposed martial achievement, my father treasures the friendships that he formed during the war. I can vividly remember visits from the three Generals my father served; Major General Lucas V. Beau, Major General Victor E. Bertrandias and Brigadier General Albert E. Boyd.
Boyd always made the most dramatic entrances. He was a renowned test pilot and always seemed to manage to hold jobs that provided him with his own aircraft. To a ten year old boy the sight of your father's friend flying into grey little Meigs Field on the Chicago lake front -- in his own aircraft -- was pretty impressive.
This was in the 1960's, twenty years and more after the end of World War II. These men came to our family's home for one reason: to see Dad.
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Only when I began to explore military history did the magnitude of the Pacific War begin to reveal itself.
The Greater East Asia-Co-Prosperity Sphere, created by Japan, at one time encompassed one fifth of the Earth. Their military was one of the toughest and most disciplined fighting forces in history. Elements of genius were exhibited by military leaders on both sides of the conflict; Halsey, Yamamoto, Stillwell, Doolittle, Yamashita, and America's most creative general of the 20th century, Douglas MacArthur.
Some battles took place in locations that were so rugged as to almost defy description -- the Owen Stanley mountains in New Guinea are certainly one of the most surreal battlegrounds in military history.
In some places the space in which the forces were concentrated was microscopic; Betio, the island within the Tarawa Atoll where all the significant fighting took place, is half the size of Central Park in New York City. Over 8000 combatants were killed or wounded Betio in the space of one nightmarish week.
Some battlefields were both incredibly rugged and astonishingly tiny; Peleliu and Correigador islands, in particular, stand out in this regard.
All counted, nearly 3,000,000 American served in the Pacific, with my father and his friends marching among them.
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So here was the idea: I wanted to see what my father and his friends had seen, and I wanted to honor them with that vision. In recognition of the great gift of the support of my friends, I hope in some small way I have accomplished this mission.
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In any undertaking of this scope the author becomes something of a passenger on the ship of his own creation. Certainly not, at many times, its Captain. He is utterly dependent on countless individuals whose unpaid or under-paid contributions collectively make or break the project. There are many Samaritans I have met along this journey whom I am unable to properly credit here -- you know who you are and I hope you know that you have my heartfelt thanks.
War Of Our Fathers received early support from the Professional Photography Division of Eastman Kodak Company.
My deepest thanks are extended to Raymond DeMoulin for valuing these photographs -- when they didn't exist anywhere but in my mind.
It is only through the vision, faith, and hard work of my publisher in Japan, Reimon Nishiwaki, editor-in-chief of TBS-Britannica, that the Japanese language first edition of War Of Our Fathers came to be published in 1991. His support of this project and respect for its goals is deeply appreciated.
Both the first English language edition of War of Our Fathers and the upcoming second edition were made possible in a large part by John Kelly, as Publisher of Barnes & Noble Books, and now as principal of Book Creation, LLC. My gratitude to him for his appreciating the value of making these images available in America cannot be overstated, nor can my thanks for his crafting of the final text.
It is with great humility that I thank both Stephen E. Ambrose and Senator John McCain for, respectively, the beautiful foreword and afterword. War Of Our Fathers could not have hoped for better, or more generous and gracious, contributors.
David and Dennis Barnett of The Barnett Group, the original designers of War Of Our Fathers, showed incredible patience and staying power during the two years the book was in production and in the nine years since. Their contributions are fundamental to the project in every way, and their judgment and sensibilities have been, and remain, essential to me.
I am forever indebted to my friend Akinori Itoh, proud son of the late Technical Sergeant Bansuke Itoh of the Imperial Japanese Army, for his essential assistance in bringing this book to publication in Japan -- and indirectly in America. Without his steadfast support and constant counsel this book would never have existed in any language.
I thank Samuel K. Skinner, secretary of transportation and President's chief of staff in the George Bush administration, for making it possible for me to stay at the Coast Guard LORAN Station on Iwo Jima. His support made possible documentation of an island without which this project could never have been considered complete.
Within the Coast Guard I would like to thank Commander J.J. Hathaway, Captain James Shaw, and Lieutenant Jeffrey Ruvolo for their cooperation and patience.
I am indebted to Congressman from Illinois John Porter for his help arranging for the Military Airlift Command to allow me on its flight to Iwo Jima.
Within the photographic community I would like to thank three old friends, Greg Heisler, Steve Krongard, and Harris Welles for encouraging me to attempt this project. My assistant, Joshua Sheridan, proved to be the professional that I've always known him to be in helping assemble the equipment that we required to execute the portraits, and assisting on those shots. Finally, Warren Motts, former chairman of the board of the Professional Photographers of America brought his enthusiasm, generous assistance, and unique personal relationships to this enterprise.
Supervision of the B&W film processing and reproduction printing is the work of Varouj Kokuzian, Senior Printer, Gamma / Chicago. It is not possible for me to overstate his skills, sensitivity, and the contribution he has made, not only to this project, but to my craft over many years.
At the genesis of War Of Our Fathers was William Manchester's remarkable and evocative memoir of the Pacific War, Goodby Darkness. I thank the Professor for the inspiration that Goodby Darkness provided, and for his many other important histories.
I also wish to thank Steven Spielberg for the great revelation of Saving Private Ryan, and the gift of the vast positive effect it has had on Americans appreciation of the value and importance of memorializing the sacrifices of the World War II generation.
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Overseas, logistics and information became everything. The kindness, knowledge, and generous help of strangers, now friends, made possible the War Of Our Fathers photographs.
On Guam: The outrageous Bob ("C.H.") Couch and Al Maki, with whom many exquisite adventures were shared and many remarkable relics visited...
In New Guinea: The immaculate Lieutenant Colonel Michael Dennis, MBE, then Australian Military Attache' to Papua New Guinea, who provided many insights into the Australian viewpoint on the New Guinea campaign -- as well as excellent, fatherly, security advice...also, Michael Montgomery of Pacific Helicopters for the best helicopter charter ever and a very entertaining visit to the mining camp outside Wau.
I am also grateful to the previously mentioned anonymous Samaritans, a few of whom can be seen pictured here.
On New Britain: Bob and Rena Lane of the Kaivuna Hotel for their graciousness and assistance...
On Guadalcanal: Ellison Kyere of the Solomon Islands Tourist Office for making my all to short stay productive and fun...
On (and over) Peleliu: Bob Keys of Palau Paradise Air for great aerial photography flying...
On (and under) Truk Lagoon: Gradvin Aisek of Blue Lagoon Dive Services for getting this (then) non-diver down and back up again safely -- as well as for introducing me to the limitless majesty of the ocean...
On Tinian: Elder Cory Reid and Elder Jose' Jaime, missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, for their companionship and tolerance...
On Saipan: The fabulous Jake Thornburg, artist and philosopher, for his assistance, climbing and caving skills, and his unique view of the underground world of the Japanese fighting man...
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Finally, I would like to thank the twelve American veterans who graciously consented to be photographed for this book. It was an honor to have met each of you, and I apologize for taking so long to complete this mission.
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Some of the more adventurous readers of this book may choose to visit these islands. All I can ask is that you not mar the magical quality of these sites with graffiti. I'm sure that "Tony / New Jersey / 8-14-89" and "Bobby / Arkansas / 3-12-88" were very proud that they had visited one of these battlefields, but I was disgusted to be reminded of it.
The battlefields of the Pacific are far more than mechanical graveyards -- they are sacred ground upon which tens of thousands of Americans and Japanese made every possible type of sacrifice. It is essential to our humanity that we accord these physical reminders of their struggle with respect.
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A note to those who plan to travel to these islands: I hope that you are not disappointed by your visit. Please understand that these photographs do not reflect what these relics "really" look like.
These photographs bear little more relation to what's out there than a dream of a beach does to the beach itself.
23 February 2001
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If you would like to view War Of Our Fathers photographs, access a project history, read the foreword by Stephen E. Ambrose, the afterword by Senator John McCain, the introductory narrative, or access our online resources, you are welcome to do so here, or from any other page on this site. War Of Our Fathers is presently out of print.
We appreciate your visiting warofourfathers.com and look forward to providing additional resources later in 2010.