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
Robert Sacchi on August 21, 2018:
Don A. Hoglund (author) from Wisconsin Rapids on August 21, 2018:
Thank you Robert for commenting on my article. about Ira Hayes.
Robert Sacchi on August 03, 2018:
This is an interesting article about Ira Hayes, one of the men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima. I didn't know he was in the film Sands of Iwo Jima. Thank you for posting.
Don A. Hoglund (author) from Wisconsin Rapids on December 26, 2016:
Thank you for commenting. I believe Ira Hayes is a tragic example of insensitivity of those in authority who meant well but lacked understanding. He served the country but was probably unprepared for the stresses and demands of being a public "hero".
Lmiguel on December 24, 2016:
I am a member of the Gila River Indian community. I actually live in the district that ira hayes is from,D5. We as gila river pimas are very proud of ira hayes. We revere him as a hero. I thank the article writer on being honest and fair when writing about our tribal member. There have been articles over the yrs that have portrayed ira as just another drunken indian. We have no idea what he and his comrades had gone thru. Perhaps we would have turned to the bottle ad well. I pray that in death ira has found peace and tranquility he so deserved.
Don A. Hoglund (author) from Wisconsin Rapids on April 28, 2013:
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.
Mitch on April 28, 2013:
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.
Don A. Hoglund (author) from Wisconsin Rapids on February 25, 2013:
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.
Derdriu on February 24, 2013:
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.
Respectfully, and with many thanks, Derdriu
Don A. Hoglund (author) from Wisconsin Rapids on October 09, 2010:
No I haven't seen it although I think I have seen promo for it.Thanks for the positive comment.
ahorseback on October 09, 2010:
Daholund , have you seen the new movie about Iwo Jima, came out a couple years ago, good movie ,great hub!
Don A. Hoglund (author) from Wisconsin Rapids on August 22, 2010:
Thank you for stopping by and commenting.I appreciate that you thought it well written.
Broadway Tour on August 22, 2010:
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 !
Don A. Hoglund (author) from Wisconsin Rapids on February 20, 2010:
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.
Coolmon2009 from Texas, USA on February 20, 2010:
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.
Don A. Hoglund (author) from Wisconsin Rapids on December 25, 2009:
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you found it interesting.
mythbuster from Utopia, Oz, You Decide on December 25, 2009:
Very interesting info you've turned out dahoglund.
Don A. Hoglund (author) from Wisconsin Rapids on December 13, 2009:
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.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 13, 2009:
What a sad story ending for a nice sounding guy who did his duty to help defend America.
Don A. Hoglund (author) from Wisconsin Rapids on December 08, 2009:
Thanks for commenting. I tend to agree.
Kinghorn on December 08, 2009:
Fame may be bad, whether it was sought or not.