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NEW YORK — Isn’t the Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi in Clint Eastwood’s film “Letters From Iwo Jima” idealized? That was a question my poet friend Geoffrey O’Brien asked on New Year’s Eve. A dedicated student of film, O’Brien had remembered a poem about the general that I translated three decades ago. Written in the fury of war, the poem might present Kuribayashi as a die-hard samurai warrior.

When asked the question, I hadn’t seen the movie and couldn’t answer. Now that I’ve seen it, twice, and read collections of Kuribayashi’s letters to his family, along with his biographies, my answer is: probably not. His letters, especially, do not appear to be those of a man who led 22,000 soldiers to death with bravado.

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