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