Flags of Our Fathers Study Guide

Chapter 14 - Myths

In January of 1947, the government began shipping the remains of those who died in Iwo Jima back to their hometowns, including Franklin Sousley’s corpse. Belle Block returns to Valley, Texas to witness her son, Harlon’s burial. Mike Strank is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and Ralph Ignatowski’s (Iggy) remains get buried at the National Military Cemetery in Rock Island, Illinois. The last two Japanese defenders on Iwo Jima didn’t surrender until January 1949, hiding in the island for four years.

By 1949, production for the film Sands of Iwo Jima starts production at Republic Studios. They fool the three flag raisers to give the go signal for the project by telling them that the other two have already agreed to put the film into production. However, their role in the film is very miniscule. The next time that any of them get reported in the news is in September of 1953, when Ira gets arrested for drunkenness. The press follows all of Ira’s arrests tirelessly. The Chicago Sun-Times stage a stunt wherein they “save” Ira—and he gets pressured to play along with it. Dean Martin’s spouse, Elizabeth, hires Ira as a chauffeur and babysitter, but he blows his chances by getting arrested once again. He returns back to Arizona and continues his alcoholism.

Felix de Weldon finally finishes a bronze sculpture version of the photograph. It took him six years, as he had to sculpt the six figures nude and then sculpting the uniforms and other elements. The statue is unveiled in Arlington On November 10th, 1954, with the families of the flag raisers present during the ceremony. Joe Rosenthal attends the unveiling, only to find out that he wasn’t given any credit for taking the photo and none of the boys were also given recognition. Only the name of the sculptor and the words "Uncommon valor was a common virtue" were inscribed on the base of the statue.

Notes: The media once again ruins a life. This time, it was Ira’s. They influenced Ira to become more destructive to himself because of their misleading stories ad continuous hounding.

Chapter 19 – Casualties of War

One week before Christmas in 1954, Ira Hayes gets arrested for the 51st and last time. A few weeks later, Ira is found dead on the snow after a fight over a card game. A sea of people paid their respects to his body as it lay on the Arizona Capitol Rotunda. His remains were buried at the Arlington National Cemetery. A lot of people say that his death was the result of the unexpected fame he gained after the release of the photograph; however, James Bradley believed that his alcoholism was the result (of what now may be diagnosed) of post-traumatic stress disorder from what he experienced at Iwo Jima. PTSD is very common amongst soldiers who come home after being exposed to battle.

Among the six flag raisers, only John Bradley and Rene Gagnon had children. It came naturally for James Bradley to feel an instant bond with Rene Gagnon, Jr. He eventually learns from Rene, Jr. that Rene, Sr. never found peace of mind, something that can be attributed greatly to his Pauline Harnois. After the war, Rene, Sr. worked as an airline clerk, then as an employee in Pauline’s travel agency, until he eventually became a janitor. Their marriage was greatly troubled because of Pauline being emotionally abusive. Rene, Sr. divulged to his son that he felt “trapped.” He died of a heart attack while he was inside a janitor’s closet, at age 54. Rene, Sr. wasn’t deemed eligible to get buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Pauline threatened to create bad press until the government eventually let his remains be buried at the cemetery.

Notes: Pauline Harnois was similar to the public. She preferred basking in the fame rather than seeing how her husband saw and experienced the war.

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