Whatever His Reason, It wasn’t Stolen Valor

There have been a number of books that I have read over the years that have left a mark on me. Some years ago I read a book by James Bradley about his father John.


Copyright Associated Press

John was a Navy Corpsman on Iwo Jima. As I remember the book it wasn’t until his father, a funeral home owner in the Midwest, died and they went through some of his papers in the attic that they had any idea of his background.

Every year during this particular anniversary when reporters would phone, the children were instructed to say that their father was out of the house and fishing. Author Bradley went into great detail describing the battle at Iwo. With the volcanic sulfur smell some  described the island as Hell on earth.

I don’t believe that they were far off.

Not only did Bradley describe the conditions, but also the actual “flag raising” and how AP Photographer Joe Rosenthall made what became probably the iconic image of World War II. The flag you see in the famous photo was actually the 2nd flag raised on a larger pole. It was raised a few minutes after the first flag.

I can remember Lex describing Iwo Jima  62 years after the battle.

Imagine being at the top of Suribachi with the flag and hearing the horns of hundreds of ships in the water far below in acknowledgment of that flag raising.

The surviving members of that party were sent on a bond raising tour, and I can remember the author describing the inner torment of these Marines stateside on tour. They were all properly lauded as heroes but to them the real heroes were the ones still on that island dying. Particularly sad to me was reading of the life of Ira Hayes post war.

After over 70 years, the Marine Corps determined that John Bradley wasn’t one of those 6, but instead was Pfc Harold Schultz.

In the intervening decades Schultz, who was later seriously injured on Iwo and  went on to a 30 year career with the Post Office never corrected the roster, nor did John Bradley.

Having both survived that I doubt either considered the name roster to be all that important.

10-02-20 Someone read this today; I reread it and I neglected to say what I thought John Bradley’s role was in this. None of them wanted the publicity of this bond tour, they were picked some weeks after the “flag raising”.

Ira Hayes, a Navajo Indian, tormented by what he witnessed had some menial jobs postwar as a farmworker in between times in jail for disorderly conduct, died from alcoholism.

And Navy Corpsman John Bradley? I believe he was in the “first flag raising” that was just minutes earlier. Someone said that they needed a bigger pole so all of the Marines and sailors could see it and the result was the iconic picture Joe Rosenthal made.

Rosenthal sent the picture stateside where it came to the desk of Franklin Roosevelt. He wanted a bond tour of that event with the participants, but who could remember who they were after some weeks? And by this time, 3 of those 6 had died on that island.

Bradley avoided that publicity the rest of his life. For Harold Schultz, he worked for 30 years in the post office after the war and other than telling his daughter one evening over dinner that he was one of those “flag raisers”, said nothing about it publicly in all those intervening years to his death.

None of them wanted the accolades for that job.


Filed under Heroes Among Us, History, Marines, Navy

2 responses to “Whatever His Reason, It wasn’t Stolen Valor

  1. Allen Ford

    All that is NO excuse for not setting the record straight.
    If it ain’t stolen valor it’s as close as one can get
    He KNEW the American public thought it was him🤦‍♂️🏳️

    • I read the book by his son. I’d have to respectfully disagree because if it was “stolen valor“ he’d be reminding people of what he did.

      And the book was wonderful. His family didn’t even know he was the one on Iwo Jima until he died and they went to a trunk of his awards and orders.

      And every year with the anniversary of Iwo Jima when the phone was ringing with reporters he would tell his children to answer it and tell them that his father has “gone fishing in Canada“.

      Someone who steals valor would be on that phone every year. Saying “remember what I did“.

      Here is what I think happened.

      There were two “flag raising’s“ on Surabachi.

      The first one they used a pipe found at the summit and raised a small flag.

      This is the one I believe Bradley participated in

      And the second one was the famous one Rosenthal captured.

      Sometime later – I think a matter of a week or two after the Rosenthal pictures circulated and got to President Roosevelt he wanted those six to participate in a bond rally around the country.

      They asked for the “flag raisers“ back at Iwo.

      And by then two of the six had already been killed.

      And as the book and movie mention, none of those survivors felt they were “heroes“. They all said that the heroes were the ones left behind.

      One of them, Ira Hayes, was so racked with guilt at being wined and dined leaving his comrades he turned to alcohol and died a rather sad life in the 50s

      And they all felt like being picked for a bond rally for the simple act of raising a flag when they all knew of the heroism on that island was silly.

      I doubt if anyone who survive that battle would ever be considered of having “stolen valor“.

      A few years ago for the 75th anniversary of Iwo I attended a get together by the Stockton Marine club to here to old veterans tell us what it was like on Iwo. One of them was 96 or so and the other was 104.

      Both of them were wounded and the “younger one“, because the Japanese were shooting the litter bearers, decided with his other wounded friend to just walk a mile or so to the aid station. And he had been hit by a Japanese Nambu machine gun.

      The older one at the base of Suribachi had been wounded by a grenade.

      And both of them said that the real heroes were the ones left behind.

      It’s a great book-Flags of Our Fathers.

      I might mention before closing that one of the other “flag raisers“ finished a 20 or 30 year career with the post office and only one evening with a dinner with his daughter did he mention the fact that he was one of the six.

      That’s the kind of men they were.

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