This is a vast saga [by Harry Brown] of a marine platoon whose history is traced from its early combat training through its storming of Iwo Jima’s beaches to the historic flag-raising episode atop the sandy atoll [on the morning of Feb. 23, 1945]. It’s loaded with the commercial ingredients of blazing action, scope and spectacle, but it falls short of greatness because of its sentimental core and its superficial commentary on the war.
Best portions of this pic are the straight battle sequences, many of which were made up of footage taken at the actual fighting at Tarawa and Iwo Jima.
John Wayne stands head and shoulders above the rest of the cast, and not only physically, as the ruthlessly efficient marine sergeant. He draws a powerful portrait of a solider with the job of making plain joes into murdering machines.
1949: Nominations: Best Actor (Johm Wayne), Motion Picture Story, Editing, Sound