Ira Hamilton Hayes

Ira Hamilton Hayes

Nickname Chief Falling Cloud
Place of birth Gila River Indian Reservation
Place of death Gila River Indian Reservation
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery, Section 34
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1942-1945
Rank Corporal
Unit 3rd Parachute Battalion
2nd Battalion, 28th Marines
1st Headquarters Battalion, HQMC
Battles/wars World War II

* Battle of Vella Gulf
* Bougainville Campaign
* Battle of Iwo Jima

Ira Hamilton Hayes (January 12, 1923 – January 24, 1955) was an Akimel O'odham, or Pima Native American, and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community. A veteran of World War II's Battle of Iwo Jima, Hayes was trained as a Paramarine in the United States Marine Corps (USMC), and became one of five Marines, along with a United States Navy corpsman, immortalized in the iconic photograph of the flag raising on Iwo Jima


The son of Jobe E. and Nancy W. Hayes, Ira Hayes was born on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Sacaton, Arizona. Hayes left school and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves on August 24, 1942.

After completing recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Hayes trained as a paratrooper at Marine Corps Base San Diego and was nicknamed Chief Falling Cloud. On December 2, 1942, he joined Company B, 3rd Parachute Battalion, Divisional Special Troops, 3rd Marine Division, at Camp Elliott, California. On March 14, 1943, Hayes sailed for New Caledonia with the 3rd Parachute Battalion. Hayes first saw combat on Bougainville. He returned home briefly on leave, after which his family said years afterward he was a changed man, more serious.

The Marine Corps parachute units were disbanded in February, and Hayes was transferred to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton. From September 1944, Hayes sailed to Hawaii for further training.
Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, by Joe Rosenthal/AP
Hayes on far left
[edit] The Flag on Iwo Jima

On February 19, 1945, Hayes took part in the landing on Iwo Jima. He then participated in the battle for the island and was among the group of Marines that took Mount Suribachi five days later, on February 23, 1945.

The raising of the second American flag on Suribachi by five Marines, Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon, Harlon Block, Franklin Sousley, and Mike Strank, and a Navy Corpsman, John Bradley, was immortalized by photographer Joe Rosenthal and became an icon of the war. Overnight, Hayes (on the far left of the photograph) became a national hero, along with the two other survivors of the famous photograph, Rene Gagnon and John Bradley. Hayes's story drew particular attention because he was Native American.
[edit] Rank and medals

Hayes was promoted to the rank of Corporal before being discharged from the Marine Corps. His decorations and medals include the following:

* American Campaign Medal
* Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four stars (for Vella Lavella, Bougainville, Consolidation of the Northern Solomons, and Iwo Jima)
* Navy Commendation Medal with "V" combat device
* Presidential Unit Citation with one star (for Iwo Jima)
* World War II Victory Medal

[edit] Post World War II
Ira Hayes (left) with Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Bowron, 1947

After the war, Hayes attempted to lead a normal life, unsuccessfully. "I kept getting hundreds of letters. And people would drive through the reservation, walk up to me and ask, 'Are you the Indian who raised the flag on Iwo Jima'?"[3] He rarely spoke about the flag raising, but spoke often with great pride about his time in the Marine Corps.

After returning home from the war, Hayes remained troubled that one of his friends, Harlon Block (one of the flagraisers, killed in action days after the event), was mistaken for another man, Hank Hansen. Hayes later hitchhiked 1300 miles from his Pima Indian reservation to Ed Block's farm in Texas, to reveal the truth to Block's family. He was instrumental in having the controversy resolved, to the delight and gratitude of the Block family.

Ira Hayes appeared in the 1949 John Wayne film, Sands of Iwo Jima, along with fellow flag raisers John Bradley and Rene Gagnon. All three men played themselves in the movie. Wayne hands the flag to be raised to the three men. (The actual flag that was raised on Mount Suribachi is used in the film.)

After the war, Hayes accumulated a record of some fifty arrests for drunkenness.[4] Referring to his alcoholism, he once said: "I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they're not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me."[3]

In 1954, after a ceremony where he was lauded by President Eisenhower as a hero, a reporter rushed up to him and asked him, "How do you like the pomp and circumstance?" Hayes hung his head and said, "I don't."[5]

Hayes' disquiet about his unwanted fame and his subsequent postwar problems were first recounted in detail by the author William Bradford Huie in The Outsider, published in 1959 as part of his collection Wolf Whistle and Other Stories. The Outsider was filmed in 1961.[6]

Flags of Our Fathers (2000) suggested Hayes suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder in the years following the war.
[edit] Death
Ira Hayes' tombstone.

On January 24, 1955, Hayes was found dead, face down and lying in his own vomit and blood, near an abandoned hut close to his home on the Gila River Indian Reservation. He had been drinking and playing cards with several other men, including his brothers Kenny and Vernon, and another fellow Pima Indian named Henry Setoyant, with whom an argument developed during which the two men scuffled. Shortly afterward, the card game broke up, and all but Hayes and Setoyant left. The coroner concluded that Hayes's death was due to both exposure and alcohol. However, his brother Kenny remained convinced that the death somehow resulted from the scuffle with Setoyant. There was no police investigation, and Setoyant denied any allegations that he scuffled with Hayes after all the players left for the night. Ira Hayes was 32.

Hayes is buried in Section 34, Grave 479A at Arlington National Cemetery. At the funeral, fellow flag-raiser Rene Gagnon said of him: "Let's say he had a little dream in his heart that someday the Indian would be like the white man — be able to walk all over the United States."[7]
[edit] Commemoration

Hayes' tragic story was immortalized in a song, "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," by Peter LaFarge. Covers of this song were done by Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Smiley Bates, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Kinky Friedman, Tom Russell, Hazel Dickens, Patrick Sky, and Townes Van Zandt. In 1964, Cash took the song to number 3 on the Billboard country music chart.[citation needed]

On November 10, 1993, the United States Marine Corps held a ceremony at the Iwo Jima Memorial commemorating the anniversary of the Corps. Of Ira Hayes, USMC Commandant General Carl Mundy said:
“ One of the pairs of hands that you see outstretched to raise our national flag on the battle-scarred crest of Mount Suribachi so many years ago, are those of a Native American ... Ira Hayes ... a Marine not of the ethnic majority of our population.

Were Ira Hayes here today ... I would tell him that although my words on another occasion have given the impression that I believe some Marines ... because of their color ... are not as capable as other Marines ... that those were not the thoughts of my mind ... and that they are not the thoughts of my heart.

I would tell Ira Hayes that our Corps is what we are because we are of the people of America ... the people of the broad, strong, ethnic fabric that is our nation. And last, I would tell him that in the future, that fabric will broaden and strengthen in every category to make our Corps even stronger ... even of greater utility to our nation. That's a commitment of this commandant ... And that's a personal commitment of this Marine.

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