African-Americans written out of Pacific war in Clint Eastwood's new film, veterans say





On February 19 1945 Thomas McPhatter found himself on a landing craft heading toward the beach on Iwo Jima.

"There were bodies bobbing up all around, all these dead men," said the former US marine, now 83 and living in San Diego. "Then we were crawling on our bellies and moving up the beach. I jumped in a foxhole and there was a young white marine holding his family pictures. He had been hit by shrapnel, he was bleeding from the ears, nose and mouth. It frightened me. The only thing I could do was lie there and repeat the Lord's prayer, over and over and over."

Sadly, Sgt McPhatter's experience is not mirrored in Flags of Our Fathers, Clint Eastwood's big-budget, Oscar-tipped film of the battle for the Japanese island that opened on Friday in the US. While the film's battle scenes show scores of young soldiers in combat, none of them are African-American. Yet almost 900 African-American troops took part in the battle of Iwo Jima, including Sgt McPhatter.

The film tells the story of the raising of the stars and stripes over Mount Suribachi at the tip of the island. The moment was captured in a photograph that became a symbol of the US war effort. Eastwood's film follows the marines in the picture, including the Native American Ira Hayes, as they were removed from combat operations to promote the sale of government war bonds.

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