A Marine Medal of Honor winner has been battling to block the distribution of Bryan Mark Rigg’s Flamethrower (Fidelis Press), the incredible, all-encompassing, controversial and meticulously researched account of the crucial battle of Iwo Jima during World War II and two of its intriguing soldiers, each from an opposite side of the fight.

One of those intriguing characters is Corporal Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, the Medal of Honor winner cited for having strapped on a highly flammable 70-pound pack and entered combat as a surefire walking target. That’s the job and the horror of a Marine Corps flamethrower man.

Rigg documents the battle itself in all its gore, and then the actions, events and controversy surrounding Williams receiving the Medal of Honor. Did Woody get the medal because the Marines felt he merited it? Was political pressure a factor? Rigg leaves no stone unturned.

In the course of examining details of his research regarding Williams, Rigg uncovered “troubling facts that made me struggle with a different sort of battle that many scholars encounter: the pursuit of evidence against interest.”

Not only did Rigg face objections from Williams himself, after Rigg started to see problems with the Marine’s self-reporting that called into doubt the extent of his heroics, but also the grandson of the Imperial Japanese Army’s Tadamichi Kuribayashi, who commanded Iwo Jima and was said to be one of Japan’s toughest leaders.

“This book has been written with much soul-searching, heartache and many a sleepless night,” says Rigg. “I hope you agree that it is far better to deal with uncomfortable truths rather than beautiful lies if we want to learn from history to build a better society.”


Advance praise for the book was enormous from military leaders and chroniclers, saying the nonfiction work will take its place among the classic books about Iwo Jima. It is regarded as one of the rare volumes that, according to General Charles C. Krulak, “neatly ties tactical, operational and strategic levels of conflict into a single package in a magnificent manner.”

The book also captures the brutal realities of combat. “The bravery of the Marines and sailors who assaulted across Iwo Jima’s black sand beaches, who fought through the mine fields and the interlocking bands of fire from hidden pillboxes and bunkers, who endured constant artillery and mortal fire, and finally who secured the island is hard to understand without the knowledge of what esprit de corps and brotherhood means to Marines,” says General Krulak.He also adds, “You cannot understand the tenacity, the fanaticism, and the savagery of the Japanese soldier without understanding their culture, the impact of religion, and the deep-seated value system of the Samurai.”

At the battle of Iwo Jima, in early 1945, it is estimated that a Marine was killed every two minutes over a 36-day period. The fighting was horrific, often from close range in hand-to-hand combat.

Rigg takes the reader deep inside the history of Iwo Jima, explaining its significance in the bigger picture and the eventual outcome of the Pacific War. He shows how Americans viewed the war’s beginnings, through the lens of Woody’s life. He also takes readers into the machinations of the enemy mind: “Few Americans understand just how fanatical and grotesque the average Japanese soldier was back then.”

In setting the stage for the book, Rigg quotes Fleet Admiral William “Bull” Halsey: “There aren’t many great men. There are just great challenges that ordinary men like you and me are forced by circumstances to meet.”

Flamethrower is now available for purchase.

BRYAN MARK RIGG has a passion for history and social justice, and says he lives by the themes he took to heart during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps and Yale University. In fact, those underlying principles were the impetus behind his decision to set up his own firm, Rigg Wealth Management, in 2009. He is the author of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers, which won the William E. Colby Award for Military History, was featured on NBC-TV’s Dateline, and has been translated into 11 languages. He is also the author of Lives of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: Untold Tales of Men of Jewish Descent Who Fought for the Third Reich and The Rabbi Saved by Hitler’s Soldiers: Rebbe Joseph Isaac Schneersohn and His Astonishing Rescue.