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Ira Hayes And The Flag Over Mount Suribachi

At age 23, Ira Hayes a Pima Indian, helped raise the American flag over Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima and became part of the most famous photograph in American history.

Ira Hayes was born on the Pima Indian Reservation in Sacaton, Arizona in 1922. He grew up in a family that was dirt poor and like the others on the reservation, scraped what they could from the harsh, arid land. The conditions on the reservation were hard, to say the least, but Ira managed to survive and at the age of 23 joined the US Marine Corps.

It's fair to say that Ira joined the Marines to escape the deplorable conditions of the reservation. The Marine Corp meant three hots and a cot, something that Ira had never known, and a monthly paycheck of around $50 that he could send home to help his family. On the day of his leaving the reservation, his tribal chief told him to be an honorable warrior and to bring honor upon his people. Ira Hayes, a ragged, dirty Pima Indian, left to do just that.

On February 23,1945, Ira Hayes became one of the most famous men in the United States, and the world. On a battle ravaged hilltop known as Mount Suribachi, a small group of Marines raised the American flag to claim victory over the Japanese on Iwo Jima.. Under battle conditions, just as the flag was being raised, a war photographer snapped a picture. That picture became the most famous photograph of the war and was turned into a memorial. Six men were caught in that photograph, Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, John Bradley, Michael Strank, Harlon Block and Rene Gagnon. Three of them died shortly afterwards. Only 5 of Ira's platoon of 45 survived and of his company of 250, only 27 escaped death or injury.

When the photograph reached the states President Truman ordered that the surviving men raising the flag over Mount Suribachi be brought home. The men went on tour to help raise money for the war efforts and became national heroes. But, what was supposed to be an easy tour of duty turned into the worst ordeal of Ira's military life. He struggled with being called an American hero and the adulation that was heaped upon him. Over and over he denied being a hero and reminded everyone of the brave men who had died and deserved this honor.

When Ira left the Marines he was an alcoholic. Not being able to accept that he was considered a hero for surviving when the men that died were forgotten. He did like many other returning veterans and turned to the bottle. When he came home to the reservation he was honored by his tribe and looked upon as a great man. People from around the country would visit the reservation to see "the Indian that raised the flag". All this just pushed Ira deeper and deeper into the bottle.

One cold morning, Ira was found frozen to death in a drainage ditch on the reservation. Alone, deep in depression, Ira had got drunk, passed out and died of the cold. He was 33 years old. Ten years after Iwo Jima.

Not long after his death Johnny Cash wrote a song about his life. You can listen to the song www.youtube.com/watch or read the lyrics below.

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 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 crops, 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 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

Freedom is never free.

Related keywords: america named after
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Comments (1)
Ranked #80 in History

much liked!

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