John Bradley

John Bradley

Nickname "Doc"
Place of birth Antigo, Wisconsin
Place of death Antigo, Wisconsin
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1942–1945
Rank Pharmacist's Mate Second Class
Unit 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines
Battles/wars World War II

* Battle of Iwo Jima

Awards Navy Cross
Purple Heart

John "Jack" "Doc" Bradley (July 10, 1923–January 11, 1994) was a United States Navy corpsman during World War II, and one of the six men who took part in raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. Bradley was already on the summit of Mount Suribachi with his platoon, when Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon Block, PFC Ira Hayes, PFC Rene Gagnon and PFC Franklin Sousley, who had a larger flag on orders to place it so that it could be seen from great distance, asked him to lend them a hand in raising the flag attached to a heavy length of pipe. He was the last surviving of the six men.

Early years

Born John Henry Bradley in Antigo, Wisconsin to James ("Cabbage") and Kathryn Bradley, he was the second of five children. He grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, and reportedly had an interest in entering the funeral parlor business from an early age.
[edit] World War II

When he was 19, his father suggested he enlist in the Navy so he could avoid ground combat. However, the Navy chose him to become a medical corpsman and he was eventually assigned to the United States Marine Corps. As a Marine medical corpsman, he took part in the assault on Iwo Jima, one of the most bitterly fought battles of the Pacific War's island-hopping campaign.

In March 1943, Bradley began his medical corpsman training and was initially stationed at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Oakland. He was then assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, of the 5th Marine Division, which was being formed at Camp Pendleton, California.

After participating in the famous flag-raising at Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima, John Bradley was awarded the Navy Cross for rushing to a wounded man's aid under heavy Japanese fire. A few days later, he received several shrapnel wounds in his legs, and was evacuated from the combat zone to a hospital in Hawaii.

Navy Cross citation

"For extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy at Iwo Jima on February 21, 1945 as a hospital corpsman attached to a Marine Rifle platoon. During a furious assault by his company upon a strongly defended enemy zone at the base of Mt. Suribachi, Bradley observed a Marine infantryman fall wounded in an open area under a pounding barrage by mortars, interlaced with a merciless crossfire from machine guns."

"With complete disregard for his own safety, he ran through the intense fire to the side of the fallen Marine, examined his wounds and ascertained that an immediate administration of plasma was necessary to save the man's life. Unwilling to subject any of his comrades to the danger to which he had so valiantly exposed himself, he signaled would-be assistants to remain where they were. Placing Service."

[edit] Post-war life

Sergeant Mike Strank, Corporal Harlon Block, and PFC Franklin Sousley were all killed in action later in the battle. Only John Bradley, Ira Hayes and Rene Gagnon survived the battle, and they were brought back to the United States to tour the country for the seventh war bond drive. The bond drive helped lift morale at home.
[edit] Marriage and family life

Following his appearances at the last bond tour, John Bradley married his childhood sweetheart, Betty Van Gorp, settled down in Antigo, had eight children, and was active in numerous civic clubs. He rarely took part in ceremonies celebrating the flag raising, and by the 1960s avoided them altogether. He fulfilled his life-long dream by buying and managing his own funeral parlor, but was tormented by memories of the war. Betty says he wept in his sleep for several years and kept a large knife in a dresser drawer for "protection". He also had many flashbacks of his best friend Iggy, Ralph Ignatowski, who was captured and tortured by Japanese soldiers. Bradley never could forgive himself for not being there to try and save his friend's life. [1]
Memorial plaque placed by his family on the spot of the flag raising
[edit] Post-raising views

He rarely spoke of the raising of the flag, stating once that he "just happened to be there". His son James Bradley (who wrote a book about the flag-raisers in 2000 titled Flags of Our Fathers) speculated that his father's determined silence and discomfort on the subject of his role in the Battle of Iwo Jima was largely due to memories of John's best friend, Ralph "Iggy" Ignatowski. In his own words, and only once, he briefly told his son what happened with "Iggy".

I have tried so hard to block this out. To forget it. We could choose a buddy to go in with. My buddy was a guy from Milwaukee. We were pinned down in one area. Someone elsewhere fell injured and I ran to help out, and when I came back my buddy was gone. I couldn’t figure out where he was. I could see all around, but he wasn’t there. And nobody knew where he was.

A few days later someone yelled that they’d found him. They called me over because I was a corpsman. The Japanese had pulled him underground and tortured him. His fingernails... his tongue... It was terrible. I’ve tried hard to forget all this."
—John Bradley

According to James Bradley, as recounted in Flags of our Fathers, official reports revealed Ignatowski was captured, dragged into a tunnel by Japanese soldiers during the battle, and was later found with his eyes, ears, fingernails, and tongue removed, his teeth smashed, the back of his head caved in, multiple bayonet wounds to the abdomen, his arms broken, and his severed genitalia stuffed into his mouth. John Bradley's recollections of discovering and taking care of Ignatowski's remains haunted him until his death, and he suffered for many years from Post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Battalion Aid Station for the United States Marine Corps Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico is named in honor of John Bradley.
[edit] Death

John Bradley had a heart attack, but died of a stroke at 2:12 am in an Antigo hospital on January 11, 1994, at the age of 70, the last of the six men who raised the second flag to die. He said more than once to his children that the only real heroes on Iwo Jima were those that did not survive. John Bradley's family had no idea he had received the Navy Cross until after his death. He is buried in Queen of Peace Cemetery, Antigo, Wisconsin

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8 years 17 weeks ago, 12:33 AM

greg az

greg az's picture

Secretary of Homeland Security
Join Date:
Oct 2009
New York, NY, Ascension Island

This is the book mentioned above written by John Bradley's son James. I can't tell you how moving this book is, Obviously all of these men were heros, but the humility of Bradley was incredable. The son wrote that every year on the aniversary of the flag raising they would get phone calls from the media. He gave all the kids instructions on how to handle this, he was always "away fishing".. One time a local news reporter came by, and they don't know what happened, but the reporter left empty handed. He ALWAYS slept with the knife (K bar of course) by his side. The family didn't discover the medals mentioned above till after he had passed away.
In short he was a quite a man. highly recomend to book to all who haven't had a chance to read it. One of these days I'll get around to LBC's ..Sorry clint's, movie.

a man has to hold his word, hold his beliefs, and hold a good sight picture.
8 years 17 weeks ago, 4:12 AM


luckybychoice's picture

Secretary of the Treasury
Join Date:
May 2009
United States
we like our corpsman

they were our unofficial mascots,books are better than movies in my opinion too.

i tried being reasonable,i didn't like it, NRA LIFE MEMBER,USMC VETERAN
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Posted by: Anonymous
8 years 17 weeks ago

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