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Spike Lee courts controversy by criticizing Clint Eastwood and the Coen brothers

May 22, 2008 | 11:55 am

Perhaps Spike Lee has decided that a good offense makes for a better defense if he is snubbed by the Academy Awards again this year. How else to explain his slam of a trio of Oscar-winning directors — Clint Eastwood and the Coen brothers - who could well be competing again this year.

Spike_lee

As per Reuters, Lee was in Cannes to promote "Miracle at St. Anna," his upcoming WW II drama about the heroic efforts of four African American soldiers in Italy. He took the opportunity to criticize his fellow filmmakers. "Clint Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total, and there was not one Negro actor on the screen," he said. "If you reporters had any balls you'd ask him why. There's no way I know why he did that. That was his vision, not mine. But I know it was pointed out to him and that he could have changed it. It's not like he didn't know."

Clint Eastwood picked up his ninth and 10th Oscar nods for producing and directing one of those two films Lee referenced —"Letters From Iwo Jima" — in 2006. While Eastwood lost those races, he has 4 Oscars on his mantle — a pair each for producing and directing best picture winners "Unforgiven" (1992) and "Million Dollar Baby" (2004) — as well as the Thalberg award.

And as for the Oscar-winning directors of "No Country for Old Men," Lee had this to say: "I love the Coen brothers; we all studied at NYU. But they treat life like a joke. Ha ha ha. A joke. It's like, 'Look how they killed that guy! Look how blood squirts out the side of his head!' I see things different than that."

Joel and Ethan Coen won three Oscars last year for producing, directing, and adapting "No Country for Old Men" and another for their original script for "Fargo" in 1996. Between them, they have another seven nominations for editing, writing, and producing.

Lee has never been nominated for directing a feature film. His first Oscar bid came in 1989 for his original screenplay of "Do the Right Thing." He lost to Tom Schulman for "Dead Poets Society" which was a best picture nominee. Lee's only other nod was in 1997 for the feature documentary "4 Little Girls." That examination of the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church lost to "The Long Way Home," a study of Holocaust survivors and the establishment of Israel.

To read the full Reuters report CLICK HERE

(40 Acres and a Mule)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Comments

Spikes factual point seems to have brought out the best in the least. Even with proven historical documentation many still attempt to refute the facts that prevail...I respect both artists; although I am quite disappointed with Clint's dirty harry response...which was quite beneath him. History, as opposed to Art, should not be a debateable topic when the facts are evident. I am always amazed and humored by the low level comments here....lol...Aol has become a posting ground of sordid compost and trash.

'The Academy's voters are about as dumb and arrogant as the voters in Texans.

Doubt it?

Just recall the great movies that got NOTHING.'

This past Year? I dunno.... Transformers? or is the answer Norbit?

wow, as far as I can tell, and I read the article again to be sure, Spike Lee never called anyone a racist. He was simply pointing out something he had a problem with and it was certainly a valid point. Regardless of what Eastwood may have done well in previous films, it disappoints me to see that a historically-based film, that seeks to honor the memories of those who fought for this country, would not fully honor the contributions ALL Americans made during that time: black, latino, asian, etc, and white

How many blacks died on Iwo Jima ? This is a serious question and would like to know .

How ridiculous is it to equate Spike Lee's comments to Obama supporters? Is there any question that we have a race issue? I can respect the people who debate the merit of any of the directors works, but to bring politics into it ....... The USA needs to get rid of these race baiters... we have a whole lot of issues that we need to come together on. In case you have not noticed, the USA is really getting our ass kicked on the world stage. Time to Ante Up!!

For years I've heard some black leaders asking where are the blacks in this movie? Well, this leads me to ask where are the hispanics in the movies, commercials, magazines ,media and history? We've been swept under the carpet , I am a U.S. Army veteran, I grew up in the barrio and knew old hispanic men who fought in all the wars and if anyone has been left out of everything it's the largerest minority group the hispanics, I guess as long as God knows how we've contributed in everything for America by serving silently without belly aching.

Spike has now proved himself to be a card-carrying dumb*ss. He's being quoted in the Guardian as saying:"For him to insinuate that I'm rewriting history and have one of the four guys with the flag be black ... no one said that. It's just that there's not one black in either film. And because I know my history, that's why I made that observation."What a buffoon. There were six in the Rosenthal scene and five at the first flag raising.

Hey Spike, if Clint Eastwood is so racist, then why'd he make the movie, 'Bird' about a black musician, Charlie Parker, played by a (GASP!) a black actor, Forrest Whitaker? Bet your jealous he got an award for it and you didn't! Also if Clint is so racist why'd he marry a cute hispanic girl? You are the epidemy of the old saying 'if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black'.

This is my 3rd comment about the Clint Eastwood article Spike Lee wrote. It was a article that kept me writing, something I like to do. This comment now is the one that really feel's nice, so here goes. Lets say I own a buisness in my home town or for that matter where ever I'm going to hire my own people which are the Italians, the rest of the people go to the bottom of the list. If their lucky I just might give them a job. If I had to work, I damm sure would only work for an Italian, why because their my people. If I did have a business and you were'nt Italian I'm going to tell you any damm thing I want to in order to send you on your way. See my people come first. This comment is the complete opposit of my last comment. Now you might say I'm a racist, I might say some thing like ~ STICK THAT WORD WHERE THE SUN DON'T SHINE ~ Also after giving it some thought I see Spike Lee as a guy who is only looking out for his people, just like I am. I remember around 1995 I was going to IRCC in Ft Pierce Florida and money was very tight and I was no spring chicken. In order for me to continue college I had to put in for this scholarship, that the college had offered up. I thought I was going to get it and don't you know a Black female student got it with a 3.2 GPA meantime I had a 3.8 GPA. I was offened and insulted to say the least. The President of the college was a black man. So now the way I see it is, he took care of his own people, good for him! Oh by the way, now that I am doing things my way whether I own rental property or not, my people come first, the rest got to the bottom of the list. Spike Lee I"m damm sure going to take care of my people over and above any other Nationality. And I say to you Spike Lee keep taking care of your people, your doing the right thing as far as I'm concerned. To sum it up Spike Lee let's tell it like it is , you know the real deal...I ain't looking out for your people and you ain't looking out for my people.....

This country hates to talk about race. Granted he should have said something last year but it does not change the fact that the only answer you guys is (RACE CARD) , or lets just sweep it under the rug and hope it goes away. Stand in his shoes for about five minutes "as a director" and maybe you will understand where he's coming from. I know you don't like Spike Lee, Jesse Jackson and/or Al Sharpton but try to leave your prejudices at home and look at both sides of the coin. The sad part is issues of race will always come up and instead of trying to figure out a solution, you're gonna sit back and complain and be just as ignorant today as you were yesterday. still won't or don't know how to deal with it.

Hey Spike, ask Morgan Freeman if he thinks Clint Eastwood is a racist. Afterall Clint didn't exclude him in two of his biggest recent movies, 'Unforgivien' and Million Dollar baby'. Morgan would probably punch your lights out and say "Get a job, punk."

why didn't spike complained back two years ago when iwo jima was released, but no, he had to start this when his own movie is coming up, that's so self serving, and wrong and using the race card for personal gain.

Reality 1, Spike 0

Mr. Lee, is this foolishness your way of generating PR? If so, get another M.O., this one is tiresome and disingenuous to any one 'Of color'.

Spite Lee, nothing harsh against you but it sure would be pleasing to one day pick up the news paper and read ~ Spite Lee took a ass whooping physically and is slowly recovering in --------------Hospital in "TINSEL TOWN " Tinsel meaning ~ "something worthless that appears glamorous "

I have to admit that I am sick and tired of people like Spike Lee getting there nose out of joint over a movie. This movie was more about the soldiers that raised the flag on Iwo Jima.

And Spike was knocking both films. One was from the Japanese side of Iwo Jima. How many blacks were in the Japanese army Spike?

And there is a difference in making a movie about a battle in WWII that has no black soldiers in it, and claiming that they were never there. Clint did not and has never said that black soldiers did not serve at Iwo Jima.

With all that said, I would like to thank every soldier past and present, white or black or hispanic or asian etc. that has ever served or is serving for the United States military. You have my respect and you are in my prayers every day.

I respect Spike Lee as a film maker, he has come a long way.

His last two films has been his most mature statements to date. Interestingly he has chosen a mix of race unknown to his previous films. I think the best is yet to come for him...

Some film makers do not get the recognition they deserve until later in there careers. Look at Martin Scorsese!

Is it race, quality of work, themes chosen?

Sure Hollywood is racist and it takes time before certain film makers get there due too.

Yo Spike, how many white folks were in your hurricane Katrina documentary? Yo Spoke the Hypocrite, you have no credibility. Yo Spike the Racist, shut the f*$k up.

Spike is venting a frustration that a lot of us feel in the film industry, black or white: the pressure to keep the screen homogenized white. Whether a director, producer or screenwriter, one finds projects which reflect the true diversity of this nation have a tougher time getting greenlit.
His comments may appear self-serving, but this discussion should be happening with or without Spike Lee.

Coen Brother's last movie was a bad, UNFINISHED joke, and winning all those awards even embarrassed them.-- just replay the tape.

So why did they win? Only 4000 PEOPLE GOT TO VOTE, LA-centric people, i.e. voters that were jaded by overexposure and didn't represent the country.

The country's best movie and the one the coen brs could never have done was the Bourne Ultimatum

Why didn't it win? -- not allowed in the running, number one (it won everything it was up for) and I suppose it just wasn't pretentious enough.

PRETENSION RULES LA

The Academy's voters are about as dumb and arrogant as the voters in Texans.

Doubt it?

Just recall the great movies that got NOTHING.

Just to set the record straight about Marines On Iwo Jima....
MONTFORD POINT MARINES

worked and fought on Iwo Jima

By Jim Rundles

Copyright 1995. The Jackson Advocate, Jackson Mississippi. Posted by permission from Ms. Alice Tisdale, Associate Publisher.(Published in the February 23 - March 1, 1995 edition in the feature column “Up and Down Farish Street.” )

“Editor’s Notes: For the first time ever, this week’s column will be dedicated to a single subject, of a single time. “The Battle of Iwo Jima”. Of course, we note the fact that our personal friend of many years, Myrlie Evers, has been elevated, by popular vote to chairperson of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP ... and we salute her. But because I see so little said about Black Marines who both fought and worked and died on Iwo-Jima. It is my responsibility to tell again their story, which is my story as well. We cannot blame the press for their limited mention of Blacks anywhere, in any wartime activities, because there was deep segregation in all branches of the military, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and SeaBees ... the fighting construction wing of the Navy. They were too. Before we get into this heretofore untold story of the part these brave Black men played in the Battle of Iwo-Jima, I must say that the National Director of the Iwo-Jima Veterans Association is Jim Westbrook of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and when he found out I was on Iwo, he was gracious and sincere, and invited me to participate in every phase of activity Iwo Jima Veterans participated in. Jim is a good man, a good Marine, and a hero who served in a Rifle Company, 4th Division, on Iwo. I thank Jim and I say to him Semper Fi, the famed slogan of the Marine Corps, which means “always faithful.” For History’s sake ... we point out that the historic raising of Flag on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima occurred on February 23, 1945.

One of the bravest sights I’ve seen, was on Iwo where a Black driver of a duck .... the nickname of a vehicle that was half boat and half truck. Time and time again, delivered much needed ammunition to Marines fighting at the foot of Suribachi, where that flag was raised. The Japanese shot two trucks out from under him, but he came back everytime. Battle hardened Marines cheered him from their foxholes.

Black Marines assigned to Iwo Jima ... were like Black Marines everywhere else ... They were segregated from day one. The story began in the summer of 1941. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had by “Executive Order” declared that men, regardless of color, were to be inducted into the Marine Corps. Old-line Marines, all white of course, screamed to high heaven that didn’t want “Negroes” in the Corps. That “Negroes” could never be trained in the manner “real Marines” of the world-famed organization were trained and that induction of Negroes into the Corps would “hurt the progress of Marines as they moved from one bloody island, to another, in the Pacific war against Japan...” But, President Roosevelt’s decision was final, and he struck down all excuses from Marine Corps officers, generals to lieutenants. Roosevelt had not asked for “integration” of the military. That came 7 years later, 1948, under President Harry S. Truman. So, the Marine Corps brass, informed the President (Roosevelt) that they needed time to “build a camp where Black Marines would be trained” ... And so from July 1941 to August 1942, they stalled, but they had completed on the Southern end of Camp Lejuene, North Carolina, a place called Montford Point, complete with “all the facilities of the white camps. “ Good barracks, dining halls, churches, medical facilities, entertainment and movie halls, camp stores, barbershops, training areas, and rifle-ranges (where they would train the Black Marines to shoot) ... and all other facilities, on a par with ‘white’ facilities.

Back home in Jackson, where I was the first Negro Marine admitted to the Corps from Mississippi, I had to wait out the period until a sufficient amount of the camp had been completed. There was one special requirement the Marine Generals insisted on. “If we must admit them, and train them, we reserve the right to demand that every Negro who wants to become a Marine, must have an education either in college, or must have completed his high school courses.” It was the one regulation we later came to love, because intellectually, we were smarter than 80 percent of the white Marines. We had college graduates ... college Professors, college teachers ... high school graduates ... and in the end, the highest number of Marines (20) to be sent to Montfort Point, in a group, were from Jackson, Mississippi.

When we arrived at Montford Point, the D.I.’s (Drill Instructors) were waiting for us. They were tough seasoned Marines, veterans of Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands, (the first, great battles between Marines and the Japanese). At first, they were determined to give us hell to show Roosevelt that “Negroes ain’t tough enough to be Marines” ... But we were just as determined.

By the strangest coincidence, my drill instructor, a Corporal McQueen, was from Brandon, Mississippi, and the Marine over the whole general area was a Captain Hamilton, a graduate of Millsaps College, in our mutual hometown, Jackson, Mississippi. Both McQueen and Hamilton talked to me privately, saying, in effect “You ain’t gonna get no special treatment because you’re from Mississippi. You’re gonna be treated like everybody else in boot camp.” And I was.

I must point out that the man over the whole operation at Montford Point was a Colonel Samuel Woods, a man who believed in his “Montford Point Marines” and guided us throughout training with the slogan “Make me proud of you.” Eventually we did. On the day before we “graduated” from bootcamp, Corporal McQueen came to our barracks .and invited me outside. He looked me straight in the eyes and told me ... “Rundles, I have recommended you for drill instructor. It has nothing to do with your being from Mississippi. You’re one of the best damned Marines I’ve seen come through boot camp Black or White, and you can help train these Negro Marines and make them proud to be Marines, and proud of themselves. Don’t let me down ... somehow, I know you won’t.” Then he shook my hand .... patted me on the back and walked away. I never saw him again.

I was drill instructor for two years. Many of those days and nights were uncomfortable due mainly to rifts between me, and many of the other drill instructors, who were all Black, by this time. I objected, openly, and angrily, to them because of the extreme measures they often used in training recruits ... all of whom were Black. I got right in their faces and told them what I thought.

Then an amazing thing happened. The Commandant of the Marine Corps was coming to Montford Point to look us over. General A.A. Vandergriff was a veteran of the Solomon Island and Guadacanal Campaigns. The heroic struggles that Marines first engaged in against the Japanese in World War II. Vandergriff was a tough, and seasoned veteran. I should state here that it was originally planned to enlist only 1,200 Black Marines. One Battalion, and it would be a defense battalion. Originally named the 51st Def. Battalion, and we were supposed to ‘defend’ some lonely island that the white Marines had already taken. It was a cold, calculating plot, designed to keep “Negro Marines” away from any part of any battle. We knew of the plot, and we also knew that General Vandergriff’s visit was designed as an inspection that would make or break the future of Negroes in the Marine Corps.

After his inspection of the camp, the general was to have us ‘pass in review’, or parade by him in full dress with shouldered rifles. One African American Marine sergeant was to stand six feet in front of the general, shout commands to 1,200 Marines, and order them to ‘pass in review’. One mistake and the whole thing would be fouled up. What sergeant would this be?

Not only would the top Marine in the world be breathing over his shoulder, his voice had to be strong and accurate enough for every Marine on the parade ground to hear him. It was a pressure spot. We talked among ourselves, the other sergeants and me. It was decided that the right to chose that man belonged to the top-ranking African American Marine at that time, Master Sergeant Gilbert H. Johnson, who had served for 20 years in the Army before coming to Montford Point as one of the first Black Marines.

Sergeant Johnson told us “I’m going to choose carefully, because you all know that the future of Blacks in the Marine Corps may very well hang on the shoulders of that one man, standing in front of General Vandergriff, calling the commands.”

I went back to my hut and laid across the bunk trying to think of the right man for that job. Ten minutes later Sergeant walked in, looked me in the eyes and said “Sergeant Rundles, you are that man. We will all stand behind you. I choose you because I know you can do the job. God be with you, and us all.

Three days later I stood in front of General Vandergriff, looked out across the parade ground at ten platoons of African American Marines 100 yards away, said a prayer, and called out the commands. Those Marines were great. They moved like one smooth machine. They snapped to attention. Did ‘right-shoulder arms’ ... and did a right turn, and when I got to the ‘pass-in-review’ the Marine band, all African American Marines in the “Marching 100”, struck up “The Marine Hymn” as they approached where we were standing with the general, and other members of the President’s cabinet. They were great. I was proud of them. It was beautiful to watch the pride and precision those men executed.

When the last man passed, I followed the orders given me before that day, did an about face and saluted General Vandergriff. He returned my salute, smiling broadly, and said, “good show sergeant ... good show.” The other sergeants almost mobbed me when we got back to our area. Sergeant Johnson said “you did it, by God I knew you would.” I told him no, you all did it, you were great. Indeed they were, I later discovered that following his visit to Montford Point, General Vandergriff lifted all restraints on enlisting African American Marines, and more than 20,000 served before the war ended.

A year later a general order came down from Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, stating “There are only two kinds of Marines. Those who have been in combat, and those who were going ...” A month later I was informed that I would be leading three platoons of African American Marines into a battle area “somewhere in the Pacific.”

That “somewhere” was a place that wrote a powerful chapter in American history, and the history of the Marine Corps. That somewhere was Iwo Jima. In August 1944, we were given our last furlough home before leaving for Camp Pendleton, California. We arrived at Pendleton in early September, and for two months we had special training, including “Desert training” where the temperature rose to 110 degrees.

The area of Pendleton where we were located, was about a mile from a little town called Oceanside. It was also 30 miles from San Diego, and 36 miles from the Mexican border, and a town called Tia Juana. Happily for me it was only 88 miles to Los Angeles and Hollywood, by train; and being something of a loner, I enjoyed the trips into L.A. on weekends. On one of those weekends, I happened to read a local paper while I was at the USO, and I noticed “Count Basie and his band were appearing at the Plantation Club, about 10 blocks away. It was the first time I’d heard the band “Live and in Person”. I remember meeting the Count, and he backed off laughing, and saluted me, “I didn’t know there were any Negroes in the Marines. Man you look good in that uniform ...” It was the beginning of a friendship that would last many years.

In late October, we boarded a ship heading for the Hawaiian Islands. The first day on board I, along with about a hundred other guys, got seasick. It was the sickest I’d been in my life. Everything I ate came right back up, and I spent a lotta time hanging on the rail, giving my food to the ocean.

The next day, one of the sailors in the mess hall asked me “Sergeant, ain’t you in charge of these Marines?” I told him I was too sick to be in charge of anything. He said “Tell you what ... get you a bunk as near to the middle of the ship as you can. Then, don’t eat no greasy stuff. Let me know when you’re ready for your chow and I’ll take care of you. He did, and I gradually got over my sea-sickness.

A few days later, we landed at Pearl Harbor, and traveled by bus to Camp Catlin, that was located about halfway between Pearl Harbor and downtown Honolulu. The islands are beautiful in Hawaii, that is an understatement. They were wonderful. It did seem odd however, to be singing Christmas Carols in 85 degree temperatures.

The first week in January, we boarded ship, headed for our mission. Nobody knew we were going, and we all knew better that to ask. We were on that ship for 40 days. As we left the Hawaiian Islands I can remember seeing the huge convoy we were a part of. Hundreds and hundreds of ships of all sizes. From what I learned later, it was the largest convoy in Marine Corps history. On the way to our destination, we stopped, briefly, at Kwajelien ... Guam ... and many days later, at Saipan and Tinian.

Several days later, we were briefed about our destination. Some place called Iwo Jima. The whole operation wouldn’t take but about a week, we were told, then we’d head back to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. Only one small detail we had all overlooked. The Japanese on Iwo might not give it up so easily. On the dawn of the invasion, February 19, 1945, I remember we all gathered at the side of the ship watching the huge 16-inch guns of the battleships pound Iwo with shell after shell. Rocket-bearing planes were hitting the island’s north end with a barrage of powerful fire. The barrage kept up as I noticed the first landing party of Marines from the Fourth and Fifth Divisions boarding the assault ships, LST’s and closes. As they stepped into the crafts that would take the first wave of Marines to the beach ... The ships let loose a savage barrage of shells. It seemed the whole island was covered with smoke rising from the shells. Good Lord, I thought ... nothing can survive that.

I noticed, off to our right, the Marines were loading landing boats near the line of departure. Other Marines were loading the 75-millimeter Howitzers. As I glanced at the Howitzers being loaded, I had no idea the role they would play in the lives of my men when landed.

The first Marines ashore found the situation so quiet they had reason to believe that ole General Howling Mad (Holland) Smith just might be right. It wouldn’t take but five days at the most to take Iwo Jima ... wrong the Japanese, suddenly opened up with a barrage of shells from the 16-inch guns, taken from ships they had placed in the sides of Mount Suribachi, and the Marines had no place to run ... nearly two thousand Marines were killed that first day. Inch by inch they moved ahead ... but the deadly barrage never stopped.

After three bloody days of fighting, Marines of the 28th Regiment, Fifth Division finally captured Mount Suribachi ... but what a price. The flag was raised on the end of a long piece of pipe. Joe Rosenthall took his now world famed photo, and the Marines secured Suribachi, but that was only the beginning.

Black Marines of the 8th Ammunition Company had landed with the second or third wave. They somehow made it to some cover behind the jutting end of a cliff that leaned out toward the ocean .. it was their duty to keep ammunition in the hands of the Marines throughout the operation.

On D-Day plus three, climbed down the Cargo Nets into the LST’s ... in minutes we were headed toward Red Beach Two. Others among the Black Marines would be landing just north of us on Yellow Beach One. As we headed toward the beach, I glanced up and pointed my field glasses toward Suribachi, and there she went. They were raising the flag ... God, what a beautiful sight, I thought.

Our first position was in the wrong place. Everywhere on Iwo Jima was the wrong place, but we hunkered down between the Japanese line, and our 75-MM Howitzers, and the Japanese aiming at the 75’s fell a little short, and landed right on top of us. Only minutes after we landed two of my men were killed by Japanese mortar fire. As I mentioned earlier, it was the responsibility of Black Marines to work and fight, and on Iwo, for the first few days you couldn’t see anybody to fight, but somebody kept pouring hell’s fire of shelling all around us.

For three weeks straight, Black Marines in my company the 34th Marine Depot, and in my buddy, Gunnery Sgt. Kermit White’s Company, the 36th Marine Depot ... as well as the 8th Ammunition Company and the 16th Marines worked and fought. The Japanese were trying hard to knock out the 8th Ammo Company, because if they could blow up the Ammunition Dump, Marines would, in fairly short order, run out of Ammunition. Luckily there was never a direct hit on the 8th Ammo’s position.

It was weird, but we could be in our Foxholes, day or night, and hear Japanese soldiers running under us through one of the many underground tunnels they had built. Before we close we want to pay high tribute to the 16th Marines, who were also Black, and who had men killed and injured, as they went through hell and heat, bringing the wounded Marines from the front lines back to the temporary hospitals near the beach. Like many others of us ... they received a bunch of medals, including the Presidential Unit Citation, which I also wear. I thought since most of us were not Black Marines who were on Iwo Jima, maybe the truth from a Black Marine Historian who was there should be looked at by those of us on both sides of this debate. As far as being snubbed by Hollywood, Spike might remember that many of us recognized that even Steven Spielberg has been snubbed. The Color Purple which was filled with Black stars did not even receive a nomination, and that certainly was a landmark movie.....

Somebody tell Junoir,

That Black Marines were at Iwo Jima!

Get your history right before you start talking about it. I feel that Spike Lee brings up a good point.

Here a little about it. When the 1st Marine Division, on 15 September 1944, attacked the heavily defended island of Peleliu in the Palau group, the 16th Field Depot supported the assault troops. The field depot included two African-American units, the 11th Marine Depot Company and the 7th Marine Ammunition Company. The 11th Marine Depot Company responded beyond the call of duty and paid the price, 17 wounded, the highest casualty rate of any company of African-American Marines during the entire war. Major General William H. Rupertus, who commanded the 1st Marine Division, sent identical letters of commendation to the commanders of both companies, praising the black Marines for their "whole hearted cooperation and untiring efforts" which "demonstrated in every respect" that they "appreciate the privilege of wearing a Marine uniform and serving with Marines in combat."

Just to set the record straight about Marines On Iwo Jima....
MONTFORD POINT MARINES

worked and fought on Iwo Jima

By Jim Rundles

Copyright 1995. The Jackson Advocate, Jackson Mississippi. Posted by permission from Ms. Alice Tisdale, Associate Publisher.(Published in the February 23 - March 1, 1995 edition in the feature column “Up and Down Farish Street.” )

“Editor’s Notes: For the first time ever, this week’s column will be dedicated to a single subject, of a single time. “The Battle of Iwo Jima”. Of course, we note the fact that our personal friend of many years, Myrlie Evers, has been elevated, by popular vote to chairperson of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP ... and we salute her. But because I see so little said about Black Marines who both fought and worked and died on Iwo-Jima. It is my responsibility to tell again their story, which is my story as well. We cannot blame the press for their limited mention of Blacks anywhere, in any wartime activities, because there was deep segregation in all branches of the military, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and SeaBees ... the fighting construction wing of the Navy. They were too. Before we get into this heretofore untold story of the part these brave Black men played in the Battle of Iwo-Jima, I must say that the National Director of the Iwo-Jima Veterans Association is Jim Westbrook of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and when he found out I was on Iwo, he was gracious and sincere, and invited me to participate in every phase of activity Iwo Jima Veterans participated in. Jim is a good man, a good Marine, and a hero who served in a Rifle Company, 4th Division, on Iwo. I thank Jim and I say to him Semper Fi, the famed slogan of the Marine Corps, which means “always faithful.” For History’s sake ... we point out that the historic raising of Flag on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima occurred on February 23, 1945.

One of the bravest sights I’ve seen, was on Iwo where a Black driver of a duck .... the nickname of a vehicle that was half boat and half truck. Time and time again, delivered much needed ammunition to Marines fighting at the foot of Suribachi, where that flag was raised. The Japanese shot two trucks out from under him, but he came back everytime. Battle hardened Marines cheered him from their foxholes.

Black Marines assigned to Iwo Jima ... were like Black Marines everywhere else ... They were segregated from day one. The story began in the summer of 1941. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had by “Executive Order” declared that men, regardless of color, were to be inducted into the Marine Corps. Old-line Marines, all white of course, screamed to high heaven that didn’t want “Negroes” in the Corps. That “Negroes” could never be trained in the manner “real Marines” of the world-famed organization were trained and that induction of Negroes into the Corps would “hurt the progress of Marines as they moved from one bloody island, to another, in the Pacific war against Japan...” But, President Roosevelt’s decision was final, and he struck down all excuses from Marine Corps officers, generals to lieutenants. Roosevelt had not asked for “integration” of the military. That came 7 years later, 1948, under President Harry S. Truman. So, the Marine Corps brass, informed the President (Roosevelt) that they needed time to “build a camp where Black Marines would be trained” ... And so from July 1941 to August 1942, they stalled, but they had completed on the Southern end of Camp Lejuene, North Carolina, a place called Montford Point, complete with “all the facilities of the white camps. “ Good barracks, dining halls, churches, medical facilities, entertainment and movie halls, camp stores, barbershops, training areas, and rifle-ranges (where they would train the Black Marines to shoot) ... and all other facilities, on a par with ‘white’ facilities.

Back home in Jackson, where I was the first Negro Marine admitted to the Corps from Mississippi, I had to wait out the period until a sufficient amount of the camp had been completed. There was one special requirement the Marine Generals insisted on. “If we must admit them, and train them, we reserve the right to demand that every Negro who wants to become a Marine, must have an education either in college, or must have completed his high school courses.” It was the one regulation we later came to love, because intellectually, we were smarter than 80 percent of the white Marines. We had college graduates ... college Professors, college teachers ... high school graduates ... and in the end, the highest number of Marines (20) to be sent to Montfort Point, in a group, were from Jackson, Mississippi.

When we arrived at Montford Point, the D.I.’s (Drill Instructors) were waiting for us. They were tough seasoned Marines, veterans of Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands, (the first, great battles between Marines and the Japanese). At first, they were determined to give us hell to show Roosevelt that “Negroes ain’t tough enough to be Marines” ... But we were just as determined.

By the strangest coincidence, my drill instructor, a Corporal McQueen, was from Brandon, Mississippi, and the Marine over the whole general area was a Captain Hamilton, a graduate of Millsaps College, in our mutual hometown, Jackson, Mississippi. Both McQueen and Hamilton talked to me privately, saying, in effect “You ain’t gonna get no special treatment because you’re from Mississippi. You’re gonna be treated like everybody else in boot camp.” And I was.

I must point out that the man over the whole operation at Montford Point was a Colonel Samuel Woods, a man who believed in his “Montford Point Marines” and guided us throughout training with the slogan “Make me proud of you.” Eventually we did. On the day before we “graduated” from bootcamp, Corporal McQueen came to our barracks .and invited me outside. He looked me straight in the eyes and told me ... “Rundles, I have recommended you for drill instructor. It has nothing to do with your being from Mississippi. You’re one of the best damned Marines I’ve seen come through boot camp Black or White, and you can help train these Negro Marines and make them proud to be Marines, and proud of themselves. Don’t let me down ... somehow, I know you won’t.” Then he shook my hand .... patted me on the back and walked away. I never saw him again.

I was drill instructor for two years. Many of those days and nights were uncomfortable due mainly to rifts between me, and many of the other drill instructors, who were all Black, by this time. I objected, openly, and angrily, to them because of the extreme measures they often used in training recruits ... all of whom were Black. I got right in their faces and told them what I thought.

Then an amazing thing happened. The Commandant of the Marine Corps was coming to Montford Point to look us over. General A.A. Vandergriff was a veteran of the Solomon Island and Guadacanal Campaigns. The heroic struggles that Marines first engaged in against the Japanese in World War II. Vandergriff was a tough, and seasoned veteran. I should state here that it was originally planned to enlist only 1,200 Black Marines. One Battalion, and it would be a defense battalion. Originally named the 51st Def. Battalion, and we were supposed to ‘defend’ some lonely island that the white Marines had already taken. It was a cold, calculating plot, designed to keep “Negro Marines” away from any part of any battle. We knew of the plot, and we also knew that General Vandergriff’s visit was designed as an inspection that would make or break the future of Negroes in the Marine Corps.

After his inspection of the camp, the general was to have us ‘pass in review’, or parade by him in full dress with shouldered rifles. One African American Marine sergeant was to stand six feet in front of the general, shout commands to 1,200 Marines, and order them to ‘pass in review’. One mistake and the whole thing would be fouled up. What sergeant would this be?

Not only would the top Marine in the world be breathing over his shoulder, his voice had to be strong and accurate enough for every Marine on the parade ground to hear him. It was a pressure spot. We talked among ourselves, the other sergeants and me. It was decided that the right to chose that man belonged to the top-ranking African American Marine at that time, Master Sergeant Gilbert H. Johnson, who had served for 20 years in the Army before coming to Montford Point as one of the first Black Marines.

Sergeant Johnson told us “I’m going to choose carefully, because you all know that the future of Blacks in the Marine Corps may very well hang on the shoulders of that one man, standing in front of General Vandergriff, calling the commands.”

I went back to my hut and laid across the bunk trying to think of the right man for that job. Ten minutes later Sergeant walked in, looked me in the eyes and said “Sergeant Rundles, you are that man. We will all stand behind you. I choose you because I know you can do the job. God be with you, and us all.

Three days later I stood in front of General Vandergriff, looked out across the parade ground at ten platoons of African American Marines 100 yards away, said a prayer, and called out the commands. Those Marines were great. They moved like one smooth machine. They snapped to attention. Did ‘right-shoulder arms’ ... and did a right turn, and when I got to the ‘pass-in-review’ the Marine band, all African American Marines in the “Marching 100”, struck up “The Marine Hymn” as they approached where we were standing with the general, and other members of the President’s cabinet. They were great. I was proud of them. It was beautiful to watch the pride and precision those men executed.

When the last man passed, I followed the orders given me before that day, did an about face and saluted General Vandergriff. He returned my salute, smiling broadly, and said, “good show sergeant ... good show.” The other sergeants almost mobbed me when we got back to our area. Sergeant Johnson said “you did it, by God I knew you would.” I told him no, you all did it, you were great. Indeed they were, I later discovered that following his visit to Montford Point, General Vandergriff lifted all restraints on enlisting African American Marines, and more than 20,000 served before the war ended.

A year later a general order came down from Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, stating “There are only two kinds of Marines. Those who have been in combat, and those who were going ...” A month later I was informed that I would be leading three platoons of African American Marines into a battle area “somewhere in the Pacific.”

That “somewhere” was a place that wrote a powerful chapter in American history, and the history of the Marine Corps. That somewhere was Iwo Jima. In August 1944, we were given our last furlough home before leaving for Camp Pendleton, California. We arrived at Pendleton in early September, and for two months we had special training, including “Desert training” where the temperature rose to 110 degrees.

The area of Pendleton where we were located, was about a mile from a little town called Oceanside. It was also 30 miles from San Diego, and 36 miles from the Mexican border, and a town called Tia Juana. Happily for me it was only 88 miles to Los Angeles and Hollywood, by train; and being something of a loner, I enjoyed the trips into L.A. on weekends. On one of those weekends, I happened to read a local paper while I was at the USO, and I noticed “Count Basie and his band were appearing at the Plantation Club, about 10 blocks away. It was the first time I’d heard the band “Live and in Person”. I remember meeting the Count, and he backed off laughing, and saluted me, “I didn’t know there were any Negroes in the Marines. Man you look good in that uniform ...” It was the beginning of a friendship that would last many years.

In late October, we boarded a ship heading for the Hawaiian Islands. The first day on board I, along with about a hundred other guys, got seasick. It was the sickest I’d been in my life. Everything I ate came right back up, and I spent a lotta time hanging on the rail, giving my food to the ocean.

The next day, one of the sailors in the mess hall asked me “Sergeant, ain’t you in charge of these Marines?” I told him I was too sick to be in charge of anything. He said “Tell you what ... get you a bunk as near to the middle of the ship as you can. Then, don’t eat no greasy stuff. Let me know when you’re ready for your chow and I’ll take care of you. He did, and I gradually got over my sea-sickness.

A few days later, we landed at Pearl Harbor, and traveled by bus to Camp Catlin, that was located about halfway between Pearl Harbor and downtown Honolulu. The islands are beautiful in Hawaii, that is an understatement. They were wonderful. It did seem odd however, to be singing Christmas Carols in 85 degree temperatures.

The first week in January, we boarded ship, headed for our mission. Nobody knew we were going, and we all knew better that to ask. We were on that ship for 40 days. As we left the Hawaiian Islands I can remember seeing the huge convoy we were a part of. Hundreds and hundreds of ships of all sizes. From what I learned later, it was the largest convoy in Marine Corps history. On the way to our destination, we stopped, briefly, at Kwajelien ... Guam ... and many days later, at Saipan and Tinian.

Several days later, we were briefed about our destination. Some place called Iwo Jima. The whole operation wouldn’t take but about a week, we were told, then we’d head back to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. Only one small detail we had all overlooked. The Japanese on Iwo might not give it up so easily. On the dawn of the invasion, February 19, 1945, I remember we all gathered at the side of the ship watching the huge 16-inch guns of the battleships pound Iwo with shell after shell. Rocket-bearing planes were hitting the island’s north end with a barrage of powerful fire. The barrage kept up as I noticed the first landing party of Marines from the Fourth and Fifth Divisions boarding the assault ships, LST’s and closes. As they stepped into the crafts that would take the first wave of Marines to the beach ... The ships let loose a savage barrage of shells. It seemed the whole island was covered with smoke rising from the shells. Good Lord, I thought ... nothing can survive that.

I noticed, off to our right, the Marines were loading landing boats near the line of departure. Other Marines were loading the 75-millimeter Howitzers. As I glanced at the Howitzers being loaded, I had no idea the role they would play in the lives of my men when landed.

The first Marines ashore found the situation so quiet they had reason to believe that ole General Howling Mad (Holland) Smith just might be right. It wouldn’t take but five days at the most to take Iwo Jima ... wrong the Japanese, suddenly opened up with a barrage of shells from the 16-inch guns, taken from ships they had placed in the sides of Mount Suribachi, and the Marines had no place to run ... nearly two thousand Marines were killed that first day. Inch by inch they moved ahead ... but the deadly barrage never stopped.

After three bloody days of fighting, Marines of the 28th Regiment, Fifth Division finally captured Mount Suribachi ... but what a price. The flag was raised on the end of a long piece of pipe. Joe Rosenthall took his now world famed photo, and the Marines secured Suribachi, but that was only the beginning.

Black Marines of the 8th Ammunition Company had landed with the second or third wave. They somehow made it to some cover behind the jutting end of a cliff that leaned out toward the ocean .. it was their duty to keep ammunition in the hands of the Marines throughout the operation.

On D-Day plus three, climbed down the Cargo Nets into the LST’s ... in minutes we were headed toward Red Beach Two. Others among the Black Marines would be landing just north of us on Yellow Beach One. As we headed toward the beach, I glanced up and pointed my field glasses toward Suribachi, and there she went. They were raising the flag ... God, what a beautiful sight, I thought.

Our first position was in the wrong place. Everywhere on Iwo Jima was the wrong place, but we hunkered down between the Japanese line, and our 75-MM Howitzers, and the Japanese aiming at the 75’s fell a little short, and landed right on top of us. Only minutes after we landed two of my men were killed by Japanese mortar fire. As I mentioned earlier, it was the responsibility of Black Marines to work and fight, and on Iwo, for the first few days you couldn’t see anybody to fight, but somebody kept pouring hell’s fire of shelling all around us.

For three weeks straight, Black Marines in my company the 34th Marine Depot, and in my buddy, Gunnery Sgt. Kermit White’s Company, the 36th Marine Depot ... as well as the 8th Ammunition Company and the 16th Marines worked and fought. The Japanese were trying hard to knock out the 8th Ammo Company, because if they could blow up the Ammunition Dump, Marines would, in fairly short order, run out of Ammunition. Luckily there was never a direct hit on the 8th Ammo’s position.

It was weird, but we could be in our Foxholes, day or night, and hear Japanese soldiers running under us through one of the many underground tunnels they had built. Before we close we want to pay high tribute to the 16th Marines, who were also Black, and who had men killed and injured, as they went through hell and heat, bringing the wounded Marines from the front lines back to the temporary hospitals near the beach. Like many others of us ... they received a bunch of medals, including the Presidential Unit Citation, which I also wear. I thought since most of us were not Black Marines who were on Iwo Jima, maybe the truth from a Black Marine Historian who was there should be looked at by those of us on both sides of this debate. As far as being snubbed by Hollywood, Spike might remember that many of us recognized that even Steven Spielberg has been snubbed. The Color Purple which was filled with Black stars did not even receive a nomination, and that certainly was a landmark movie.....

spike lee, let it go

life is too short to sport a chip on your shoulder against The Man your whole life

SO WHAT! I'm sick of this victim mentality that is so rampant in the US today. We need to get away from that.

Most of you morons must have graduated from grade school at some remote location were HIStory is told by white men and women. Blacks did fight and support at Iowa Jima. Some received medals. Their major role was to carry supplies and retrieve the wounded from the from the lines. Racism was a huge part of our country's fabric at the time. During the time many still viewed Blacks as slow and lazy, but this was nothing but pure racism. Spike pointing that out is no great observation, but it was accurate. However, a lot of film details are other's responsibility. However, Spike is an idiot, I've met him. I met Clint as well, and he's a geniune guy and has made more movies using Blacks in a positive frame work than Spike.

 

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