“Letters from Iwo Jima” is one of the best WWII movies produced so far. It tells the story of the battle of Iwo Jima between the United States and Imperial Japan during World War II, as told from the perspective of the Japanese who fought it.
The two main characters in the movie are General Tadamichi Kuribayashi and Private Saigo.
If you haven’t seen the movie, you should put it on your “to watch” list. Check out the trailer here:
Tadamichi Kuribayashi was a General in the Imperial Japanese Army and he was overall commander of the Japanese garrison during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He refused to permit banzai charges, which he regarded as an unnecessary waste of his men’s lives.
Although the US Marine Corps had expected to capture Iwo Jima in five days, Kuribayashi and his men held out 36 days. On the evening of 23 March 1945, Kuribayashi radioed a last message, “All officers and men of Chichi Jima – goodbye from Iwo.”
While it is believed that he was killed in action in the final assault, his body was never identified.
Private Saigo is a fictitious character created for a movie about the Battle of Iwo Jima, but he was definitely a believable character. The scene that inspired us to make a Saigo miniature is at the very end of the movie when he attacks the group of US marines with a shovel after seeing that one of them is carrying General Kuribayashi’s pistol.
Quotes from the movie:
[Saigo’s in a letter to his wife] We soldiers dig. We dig all day. This is the hole that we will fight
and die in. Am I digging my own grave?
[General Tadamichi Kuribayashi]: You are quite a soldier.
[Saigo]: No, just a simple baker.