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.

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Filed under Heroes Among Us, History, Marines, Navy

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