Ira Hayes: Immortal Flag Raiser at Iwo Jima



This week's AVS honors Ira Hayes.

Ira Hayes was a Pima Indian Marine and one of the last surviving members of the Iwo Jima flag raising in World War II.

Born in January 1923, Ira Hamilton Hayes hailed from a Pima Indian family on the Gila River Reservation near Sacaton, Ariz., as the eldest of six children. Hayes’ father was a WWI Veteran who supported his family through sustenance farming and cotton harvesting.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Hayes enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942. After completing recruit training in San Diego, Calif., Hayes volunteered for Marine paratrooper training at Camp Gillespie near San Diego. On Nov. 30, Hayes graduated from the Parachute Training School and earned his silver wings—as well as a nickname: Chief Falling Cloud. Promoted to private first class, he joined Company B, 3rd Parachute Battalion, Divisional Special Troops, 3rd Marine Division at Camp Elliott, California.

In March 1943, Hayes sailed for New Caledonia, spending 11 months in the Pacific and serving in battles at Vella Lavella Island and Bougainville Island. He eventually returned to San Diego in February 1944. The parachute units disbanded around the same time, and Hayes transferred to the 5th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California.

Iwo Jima

Later that year, Hayes moved to Hawaii for further training. In January 1945, he left for Iwo Jima along with 70,000 other Marines. The U.S. pushed forward toward the Japanese mainland.

It was at Iwo Jima that Hayes’ name and image became immortalized forever. Of the 70,000 men sent to capture the rocky outpost in the Pacific, 23,000 died trying.

On Feb. 23, 1945, to signal the end of Japanese control, Hayes and five other sailors raised the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribuchi on the island of Iwo Jima. Hayes fought on the island until it was secure on March 26. Hayes’ division had many casualties. He was one of five Marines remaining from his platoon of 45 men, including their corpsmen.

Joe Rosenthal’s Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima became a symbol of the American victory in World War II. The two surviving flag raisers, Hayes and Gagnon, became national heroes. After the war, Hayes made numerous public appearances and was lauded by the public for his service. Despite the accolades, Hayes never felt at ease in the spotlight and felt that he shouldn’t be placed above his fallen comrades.

In November 1954, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial was unveiled at a dedication ceremony in Washington, D.C. President Dwight Eisenhower praised the Pima Marine as “a national war hero.” Just 10 weeks later, Hayes died near his home in Sacaton, Ariz. He was 32.

Ira Hayes was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, finally at peace and reunited with many of his fallen brothers.

We honor your service, Ira Hayes.


Editor: Michelle Cannon

Fact Checker: Shweta Rao

Graphics: Jessica Hunsinger

Author

Albinko Hasic

Albinko Hasic is an attorney, digital analyst, and history graduate student. He is originally from Connecticut.

Comments

  1. John R Connell    

    True Hero….R.I.P. Sir……..my Respect.

  2. John R Connell    

    Respect……Hero…..R.I.P…..Sir.

  3. Chris Garcia    

    A true American Hero. He was pushed too far. The reservation was not fit for people to live. So, he turned to drink.

  4. Akicita Mani    

    “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” as performed by Johnny Cash

    CHORUS:
    Call him drunken Ira Hayes
    He won’t answer anymore
    Not the whiskey drinkin’ Indian
    Nor the Marine that went to war
    Gather round me people there’s a story I would tell
    About a brave young Indian you should remember well
    From the land of the Pima Indian
    A proud and noble band
    Who farmed the Phoenix valley in Arizona land
    Down the ditches for a thousand years
    The water grew Ira’s peoples’ crops
    ‘Till the white man stole the water rights
    And the sparklin’ water stopped
    Now Ira’s folks were hungry
    And their land grew crops of weeds
    When war came, Ira volunteered
    And forgot the white man’s greed
    CHORUS:
    Call him drunken Ira Hayes
    He won’t answer anymore
    Not the whiskey drinkin’ Indian
    Nor the Marine that went to war

    There they battled up Iwo Jima’s hill,
    Two hundred and fifty men
    But only twenty-seven lived to walk back down again
    And when the fight was over
    And when Old Glory raised
    Among the men who held it high
    Was the Indian, Ira Hayes
    CHORUS:
    Call him drunken Ira Hayes
    He won’t answer anymore
    Not the whiskey drinkin’ Indian
    Nor the Marine that went to war
    Ira Hayes returned a hero
    Celebrated through the land
    He was wined and speeched and honored; Everybody shook his hand
    But he was just a Pima Indian
    No water, no home, no chance
    At home nobody cared what Ira’d done
    And when did the Indians dance
    CHORUS:
    Call him drunken Ira Hayes
    He won’t answer anymore
    Not the whiskey drinkin’ Indian
    Nor the Marine that went to war
    Then Ira started drinkin’ hard;
    Jail was often his home
    They’d let him raise the flag and lower it
    like you’d throw a dog a bone!
    He died drunk early one mornin’
    Alone in the land he fought to save
    Two inches of water in a lonely ditch
    Was a grave for Ira Hayes
    CHORUS:
    Call him drunken Ira Hayes
    He won’t answer anymore
    Not the whiskey drinkin’ Indian
    Nor the Marine that went to war
    Yeah, call him drunken Ira Hayes
    But his land is just as dry
    And his ghost is lyin’ thirsty
    In the ditch where Ira died

  5. Frank Church    

    Thank You for your devoted service to the Corps…….Semper Fi Marine may you rest in paradise..

Comments are closed.