Ira Hayes--Interesting, tragic facts about aTragic Hero of Iwo Jima who was played by Tony Curtis in movie

Flag Raising

Source

Tombstone

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

The Reluctant Hero


Ira Hayes was a Pima Indian who fought as a Marine in World War II. He is one of the Marines shown in the famous flag raising at Iwo Jima, An ex-marine told me that what happened to Ira Hayes is now part of Marine Corp. history taught to new recruits. He said that Ira was just one of them that were arbitrarily picked to be in the picture.

I first became aware of the story of Ira Hayes when I saw the movie based on his life starring Tony Curtis. Unlikely casting, I thought, since Tony Curtis hardly looks like an Indian but I think he did a credible job of it.

Ira Hayes was a Pima Indian born in Sacaton, Arizona on January 12, 1923. The family moved a few years later to Bapchule. Both were within the boundaries of the Gila River Indian Reservation located in south central Arizona. After two years of high school he quit and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in May and June of 1942, and then went to work as a carpenter.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps reserve in August of 1942. After he finished boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego, he was assigned to the Parachute Training School at Camp Gillespie, Marine Corps Base, San Diego. In December he joined Company B. 3d Parachute Battalion at Camp Elliot, California.

Hayes, after 11 months overseas and two campaigns were ordered back to the United States. The parachute units were disbanded and Hayes was assigned to Company E at Camp Pendleton, California.

Hayes was in Iwo Jima on D-Day, February 19, 1945, and fought there until March 26.
He was one of the marines in the flag raising picture that became an icon of the war.

Ira Hayes played himself in the John Wayne film “Sands of Iwo Jima.” Lee Marvin played him in a 1960 telefilm “The American.” Tony Curtis played him in the film the outsider. Adam Beach played him in 2006 movie “Flags of our Fathers.”

A normal life was not to be for Ira. He was proud of his Marine Corp. service but was embarrassed by being a hero. He was bothered by people coming to the reservation and asking him about Iwo Jima. He felt bad about his friends who were killed in the war. A reporter asked him how he liked the pomp and ceremony and he said that he didn’t. Because he was Indian he was expected to be an Indian hero and he didn’t feel up to representing his people. He took to drinking and died a sad and lonely death from alcohol and exposure.

Ballad of Ira Hayes written by Peter LaFarge.

Call him drunken Ira Hayes

He won't answer anymore

Not the whiskey drinkin' Indian
Nor the Marine that went to war


Peter LaFarge

Peter LaFarge was a folksinger and songwriter of the 1950s and 1960s who is best know for his affiliations with Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.

He is said o be descended from a nearly extinct Narragansett Indian tribe. When young he was a rodeo rider, served in the Navy during the Korean War In 1965 he became known as an artist and painter.

He wrote the song about Ira Hayes. He died in 1965

Ira Hayes sung by Johnnie Cash

© 2009 Don A. Hoglund

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Comments 16 comments

Kinghorn 6 years ago

Fame may be bad, whether it was sought or not.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting. I tend to agree.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

What a sad story ending for a nice sounding guy who did his duty to help defend America.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Very true. The song has always brought an emotional response in me. It also seems to show some of the emotional conflicts Indians may feel.


mythbuster profile image

mythbuster 6 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

Very interesting info you've turned out dahoglund.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

mythbuster

Thanks for reading. I'm glad you found it interesting.


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

Thank you for this educational informative article; I listened to the Johnny Cash song "Ira Hayes" many times and I saw the move years ago, but this article helped to pull it together. I have never heard of Peter LaFarge till i read this Hub; thank you for introducing him to me.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I used to have a tape with LaFarges singing the song but the tape broke. Cash's version is better known. Thanks for commenting. Ity is sort of funny that I was taking a course in Indian History and the Professor wanted a copy of the song. I made a tape with the Cash version for him with some notesw. To my surprise he read the notes in class and soon everyone was asking me questions like I was some sort of expert on Ira Hayes.


Broadway Tour 6 years ago

really well written hub. Cos of people like you i don't buy magazines. I love to stumble upon such stories and delight myself reading such hubs on my lazy summer afternoon. Cheers !


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for stopping by and commenting.I appreciate that you thought it well written.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago

Daholund , have you seen the new movie about Iwo Jima, came out a couple years ago, good movie ,great hub!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

No I haven't seen it although I think I have seen promo for it.Thanks for the positive comment.


Derdriu 3 years ago

DAHoglund, It's the Adam Beach version of Ira Hayes' life that I've seen. It's sad when countries don't do a better job of caring for and thanking their heroes, particularly those who've kept us all safe during the dangerous times of declared and undeclared wars.

In particular, I like your mentioning Peter LaFarge since his songwriting is one of the reasons that people still know about Ira. Also, I like your starting the article out with Ira's tombstone.

Shared.

Respectfully, and with many thanks, Derdriu


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Derdriu, I learned from a co-worker several years ago, who had been a marine,. that the Ira Hayes story is part of the Marine Corps record and taught to new marines. I think I ran across a reference to LaFarge as the writer and looked him up. I do like his version of the song.

Thanks for reading and sharing the hub.


mitchbastid profile image

mitchbastid 3 years ago

Best portrayal of Hayes on screen was by Lee Marvin in 1960. As far as Tony Curtis not looking like an Indian, well, he was one of a long line of Jews playing indians on screen.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

mitchbastid, I am not familiar with the Lee Marvin film. I didn't know tony curtis was Jewish. I thought he was Italian. Thanks for commenting.

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