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  • Originally posted by McMax View Post

    I had a mentor who had the cover photograph on his office wall at the US Army Command and General Staff College. It's an official US Marine Corps photograph from the Battle of Okinawa. Private Paul Isen of the 5th Marines is crossing a blasted landscape known as "death valley" to those who fought there in May 1945.

    The mentor researched the photo. "On the day of the photograph was taken, "death valley" was raked by Japanese machine gun fire. Isen is running through the fire at full tilt, his body in the attitude of a sprinter just off the blocks. His rifle is not at port arms, held in the usual way across his his chest; his right hand grips the stock of his weapon at the balance point.
    "All the angles described by Isen's figure suggest the most intense concentration and speed. As if to confirm the danger of the scene, the photograph has been taken from the relative safety of a nearby hole. On can see the lip of the cameraman's haven in the foreground of the shot. When I look at this picture, I think of it as the essence of soldiering.
    "Isen is alone in the picture. Although combat soldiering is an affair of groups, the members of which sustain one another, often at the risk of their own lives, the final proposition of soldiering in modern times is that it is an intensely personal struggle against death and destruction. Isen is alone in another respect as well--that is how history has left him. Across the long march of military history, the combat soldier has often been the last and least important consideration of those who make war and those who study it." (Quoted from the lead paragraphs of Roger J. Spiller's article, "Isen's Run: Human Dimensions of Warfare in the 20th Century" in Military Review, May 1988.)
    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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    • Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
      The mentor researched the photo. "On the day of the photograph was taken, "death valley" was raked by Japanese machine gun fire. Isen is running through the fire at full tilt, his body in the attitude of a sprinter just off the blocks. His rifle is not at port arms, held in the usual way across his his chest; his right hand grips the stock of his weapon at the balance point.
      "All the angles described by Isen's figure suggest the most intense concentration and speed. As if to confirm the danger of the scene, the photograph has been taken from the relative safety of a nearby hole. On can see the lip of the cameraman's haven in the foreground of the shot. When I look at this picture, I think of it as the essence of soldiering.
      The book includes a description of the events surrounding the photo. IIRC, however, it wasn't a machine gun, but a sniper that took a shot at Isen as he was sprinting for cover. I'll have to look it up in the book.

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      • Originally posted by DingBat View Post

        The book includes a description of the events surrounding the photo. IIRC, however, it wasn't a machine gun, but a sniper that took a shot at Isen as he was sprinting for cover. I'll have to look it up in the book.
        Thanks, the odds would have been a little better against a sniper. Your author's research would be interesting.

        Spiller finished his article, "I have not had the courage to inquire whether Isen survived his war. If, however, when I am writing in my office I can imagine Isen nodding his head approvingly, my standards for remembering war will have been met."

        IIRC, some years later, Spiller received a letter from Isen who had heard or read his article. He had survived the war and living in Florida. He mentioned that he had crossed "death valley" several times that day.
        Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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        • Here's the relevant passage in the book. The author spells the name "Ison".

          A day later, with his battalion due to assault Wilson's Ridge the following day, demolition man PFC Paul Ison and other members of the 3/5th Marines' Assault Platoon were sheltering from the rain in an Okinawan burial tomb when their commander, Lieutenant Ellington, appeared at the door. 'Ison', he said, 'get up early in the morning and take your squad up on the line. Captain Smith has a job for you.'

          Next morning, after breakfasting on cold C-rations, Ison and his team went to the ammunition dump to get their satchel charges, one per man. They were turned away by the sergeant in charge. 'I've already sent a working party up to the front line', he told them, 'with all the TNT charges they will need.'

          So Ison and his men moved out, and eventually came to the 'draw, between 2 hills' that was known as Death Valley. Some of the Assault Platoon were already on the far side. Spotting Ison, one of them called out: 'Send one man at a time across.' With machine-gun and mortar fire raking the valley, Ison knew this made sense and did just that. When it was his turn, he ran with shoulders hunched, clutching his new M1 in his right hand. He was just nearing the far side and safety when he noticed, out of the corner of his right eye, someone in a foxhole raise a camera and click the shutter. Moments later he joined two 'good buddies' in another foxhole. 'Hey, Ison,' said one, 'that guy took your picture as you went past.'

          'Well,' replied Ison, 'I'll never live to see it.'
          It also turned out that the TNT never reached Captain Smith, and Ison and his squad had to return across Death Valley to get their satchel charges, then recross a third time.

          Apparently, the name of the photographer was Private Bob Bailey.

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