Flags of Our Fathers Study Guide

About the Author

James Bradley (born in 1954) is an American author. He specializes in historical fiction, particularly focused on the Second World War in the Pacific. His father, John Bradley, was one of the six flag raisers in Iwo Jima on an iconic photo. He is well-known as the author of the 2000 book, Flags of Our Fathers, which spawned a top-grossing movie of the same name. He is also the author of Flyboys: A True Story of Courage, and The Imperial Cruise.


The book follows the lives of five US Marines and one Navy corpsman who were eventually made famous by a photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal during the flag raising on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima. The novel delves into the lives of these six men. It showcases the trauma that they witnessed in the middle of battle. It also shows how the recognition from the photo changed their and their families’ lives for the worse as they settle in for peace and quiet after the war.

Main Characters

Jack/Doc/John Bradley - James Bradley’s father and one of the flag raisers in the photograph. Jack serves as an undertaker after he goes back to his hometown after the war. He keeps quiet about his experiences during the war.

Rene Gagnon - one of the three soldiers in the photograph who survived the war. He suffered from constant control from his mother, and then eventually his wife, Pauline.

Harlon Block - one of the flag raisers who died in Iwo Jima. He was misidentified as Hank Hansen for years in the photograph before Ira Hayes took measures to correct it.

Franklin Sousley - another one of the flag raisers who died in Iwo Jima. He died after wandering into an open road and gets shot in the back.

Mike Strank - he is one of the flag raisers who died on Iwo Jima as well. He is a Czech citizen who chose to enlist as a Marine despite being exempted from being drafted.

Ira Hayes - A Pima Indian who was one of the flag raisers as well. He succumbed to alcoholism after the war because of the post traumatic stress disorder that he suffered from it.

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