IWO JIMA. Three survivors

An extraordinary and very rare photograph of the three survivors of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi, Signed by each of them, as they embark on the 7th War Bond drive. They are shown holding the original flag during this patriotic tour to raise money desperately needed to continue to fund the war against Japan.

Photograph Signed by each one, Ira H. Hayes, John H. Bradley, R.S. Gagnon, with their rank, to the left of their faces. They are wearing their uniforms and looking at the torn and frayed flag which they are holding. The black and white photograph measures 10 inches wide by 8 inches high.

Joe Rosenthal's photograph of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi, February 23, 1945 was not one that the Associated Press photographer realized was particularly important. It was developed on Guam the next day and was instantly recognized as a symbol of American victory in the extremely difficult Pacific war. Americans had no reason to know names like Guadacanal, Guam, Saipan or Iwo Jima, let alone where they were, and Rosenthal's photograph on the fifth day of the brutal fighting on Iwo Jima instantly symbolized victory. The day after it was developed, Sunday, February 25th, it was on the front page of virtually every newspaper worldwide. It was the first tangible sign Americans had of success.

Five Marines and one Navy corpsman are seen in the photograph. One week later, in the savage 24-hour-a-day fighting, two of the Marines were dead. A third survived 31 days of constant fighting only to be killed just before the island was secured. A week after that Franklin Roosevelt sent the order that the six men be flown to Washington immediately. The flag raising photograph had captured the sense of national purpose that Americans needed in the seemingly endless Pacific war. Two of the survivors were already on board ship. Only one had been identified - Rene Gagnon. The Pima Indian, Ira Hayes, had sworn Gagnon to secrecy or, he said, not jokingly, he would kill him. Hayes did not want the notoriety that Gagnon was thrilled about. The third man, the Navy corpsman John Bradley, was in a Honolulu hospital recovering from wounds. Gagnon was eventually forced to identify Ira Hayes, and the three were brought back home as heroes.

The country needed identifiable heroes and the three met enormous fanfare as they set out on a victory tour for the 7th War Bond drive. Gagnon thrived, Hayes hated the ordeal and Bradley kept an even keel between the needs of the country for heroes and money and his own horror at being treated like a hero. The huge rally in Madison Square Garden in New York in which they "climbed" Mt. Suribachi and raised the flag may have been the high point for bond sales but it was for them both the nightmare of Iwo Jima and the new nightmare of being feted as heroes when, as Bradley said, the heroes were buried on Iwo Jima. Ira Hayes was granted his wish to be returned to the fighting and Gagnon and Bradley carried on. In 1945 the three flag raisers symbolized heroes and Americans' need for a tangible victory. Fundamentally, they symbolize the real heroism of ordinary people rising to extraordinary circumstances and the nearly universal, though not often acknowledged or stated, the belief that the real heroes were those that didn't come home.

These three survivors of the flag raising are as relevant as symbols today as they were in 1945. John Bradley's son wrote "Flags of Our Fathers" after his father died without ever telling him anything about his wartime experiences, except to say, when his nine-year-old son was told by a teacher that his father was a hero, that the heroes were all buried on Iwo Jima. Bradley's book became Clint Eastwood's movie which very accurately told the story of the struggles all three faced: only Bradley had a "normal" life. He raised a family but never spoke of the war. He died at age 70. Gagnon always thought that he could cash in on his fame and he died at 54 after a troubled life. Ira Hayes struggled the least successfully with the nightmares and his fame; he died at 32 years old.

The surviving firefighters from the World Trade Center said that they should not be called heroes - that the heroes had died in the flaming inferno. They, and countless others, echoed Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon and John Bradley

Framed [with a blue outer and inner mat] [in a decorative silver frame] dimensions: 16 1/2 inches wide by 14 1/2 inches high.

This item is associated with the following category in our inventory:

  • World War II


[IWO JIMA.]  Three survivors.


Historical Letters, Manuscripts and Documents - Renaissance Times to the Present

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