Watch as one of the most famous American flags ever flown is lifted by six men.
A Speech by James J. Bradley
The 55th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima
Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Virginia
20 February 2000
Transcription courtesy of USMC
(Introduction by Iwo Jima veteran Major
General Fred Haynes, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired)
General Haynes: John Bradley is the second man from the right,
the Pharmacist Mate, the only Navy man in this magnificent statue
which represents everything that all of us here, our children, our
grandchildren stand for. We have with us today his fourth child, third
son, James Bradley, who will talk to us a little about what this represents.
I present James Bradley.
(Bradley rises from his seat and strides
across the wet grass to the podium. Silently he turns away to gaze
at his father's enormous bronze likeness. He turns back to the audience
James Bradley: So there's
my dad in the tallest bronze monument in the world, but that's about
all we knew growing up. He wouldn't talk about Iwo Jima; he would
always change the subject. After he died, I phoned my mother and asked
her to tell me everything that dad ever told her about Iwo Jima. She
said, "That won't take long, because he only talked about it once
-- on our first date. For seven or eight disinterested minutes and
then never again in a 47 year marriage did he say the words, Iwo Jima."
After his funeral, we were in for
some surprises. My brothers and my mother were searching for his will
in his office. They opened a closet door. In that closet were two
large brown boxes. We were surprised that in those boxes he had secretly
saved memories of 50 years of being a flagraiser.
Then the next day we were in for another
surprise. My father's Captain on Iwo Jima phoned my mother and asked
her if she knew that my father had been awarded the Navy Cross for
valor two days before the flag raising. She said no.
My father had kept his heroism a secret from his wife, from his family,
and his community for half a century.
I burned with curiosity and went on a quest. I phoned mayor's offices
and sheriff's departments all across the country, looking for the
relatives of these six guys. I interviewed hundreds of you Iwo Jima
veterans and I learned a lot.
I learned how young you were. My dad is not the guy putting the pole
in the ground; he's the next guy up. But behind him, obscured by him,
on the other side, is Rene Gagnon.
Rene Gagnon, at that moment, had a photo of his girlfriend in his
helmet. He needed the protection because he was scared. He was 17
Ira Hayes, the last man on the statue whose hands cannot reach the
pole. Proud of being with you Marines, he wrote home from the boat
taking him to Iwo Jima: "These boys I'm with are all good men. I would
not take 1000 dollars to be separated from them."
I learned how eager you boys were to serve. Harlon Block, at the base
of that pole, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps with all
of the senior members of his high school football team.
I learned how determined you were on Iwo Jima. My dad wrote a letter
home three days after the flag raising. He wrote, " I didn't know
I could go without food, without water, or sleep for three days, but
now I know it can be done."
I learned about leaders. Ira Hayes is the last guy up there. The next
guy you're looking at is Franklin Sousley. Behind Franklin, obscured
by Franklin, is my hero -- Mike Strank.
Where is Mike's right hand? Mike's right hand is not on the pole.
Mike is behind his boys. He's the Sergeant. He's the Marine leader
and his right hand is gripping the right arm of Franklin Sousley,
a young boy. Mike is helping Franklin lift a heavy pole; a Marine
leader caring for his boys.
Three weeks before Iwo Jima, his Captain said that he wanted to promote
Mike Strank. Mike turned it down on the spot saying, "I promised my
boys I'd be there with them."
And I learned about the heartbreak that you went through. Franklin
Sousley, the second figure in. Franklin was fatherless at the age
of nine. He was dead on Iwo Jima at the age of nineteen.
His aunt told me that when the telegram arrived at the General Store
in Hilltop, Kentucky a young, barefoot boy ran that telegram up to
his mother's farm. The story is that the neighbors could hear his
mother scream all night and into the morning.
The neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.
I learned about the challenges that you faced. You did the impossible. You fought an underground, unseen enemy.
I learned that the Air Force bombed Iwo Jima more than any spot in the Pacific and only rearranged the sand.
I learned that the Navy lobbed shells the size of Volkswagens -- with the power to re-sculpture Mount Suribachi -- and didn't kill anybody.
It took you guys to win a battle that historians describe as "American flesh against Japanese concrete."
I have been to Iwo Jima. It's five miles long. If you're in a car going 60 miles an hour, it takes you 5 minutes to conquer it. It took you -- slogging, fighting, dying -- 36 days.
I learned that my father's company, named "Easy" Company, had 84 percent casualties. Sixteen percent of my dad's buddies made it off unharmed.
Bob Schmidt told me that when they buried the dead on Saipan, they buried by individual grave. When they buried on Iwo Jima they buried by row -- rows of a hundred boys. He told me that they needed surveyors to mark the lines.
Corpsman Hoopes instructed me, "You tell your readers that my uniform was caked with blood and it cracked. And it was not my blood."
I learned about the buddyhood and bravery that won the battle of Iwo Jima.
Jack Lucas, here in the front row, jumped on the beach without a rifle. And the reason he didn't have a rifle is because he wasn't supposed to be there. He stowed away to go fight the battle of Iwo Jima. And a couple days later jumped on two grenades to save his buddies.
Nurse Norma Crotty is in the audience and I interviewed her. She was an "Angel in the Air," flying down to evacuate the grievously wounded. She evacuated Navy personnel, Army personnel -- all over the Pacific. She was a nurse for 50 years caring to civilians and military.
I asked, "Nurse Norma, was there anything different about those Iwo Jima Marines?" And she said, "Yes, I'll never forget them. It was their spirit. I evacuated boys from other battles that were beaten, but those Marines had Esprit de Corps. Those boys were burned. They were bruised. But I never saw a Marine who was beaten."
I think it's time we Americans put this battle into perspective.
This is not just a big battle of the Pacific, or an important battle of World War II.
This is unique.
This is above and beyond.
This is "America's Battle."
What else can you call a battle that in one day had more casualties than two and a half months at Guadalcanal?
Normandy was terrible, but at the end of one day, at the end of 24 hours, you and I could have had a tea party on the beaches of Normandy. It was completely safe.
Boys died on the beaches of Iwo Jima -- on the beaches -- for two weeks.
What else can you call the only battle that when Franklin Delano Roosevelt saw the casualties he gasped, and he cried?
TIME Magazine, March 5th, 1945, wrote, "no battle of World War II -- not even Normandy -- was watched with as much interest as the battle of Iwo Jima."
America's Battle . . .
(Bradley gazes at the Iwo Jima veterans in the audience and beckons to them . . .)
Hey guys listen up!
You Marines and Corpsmen who won America's Battle.
I would like to salute you guys, but I know how difficult that is because you are as humble as you are brave.
Jessie Boatright said to me, "You know Bradley, you think we did something special out there in the Pacific, but we were just ordinary guys. Ordinary guys just doing our duty."
Yes, well, I'm more in synch with the words of Tex Stanton.
I often call Tex Stanton when I need advice with my writing. And he always picks up on the first ring. He doesn't leave his chair very often. Because Mr. Stanton has no legs.
He left those on Iwo Jima 55 years ago.
Mr. Stanton said to me, "You know Bradley, heroism on that island was a funny thing. You had to be observed, and you had to be written up, and if you got a medal your citation said that you did something "above and beyond." Well Bradley," he said, "I saw a lot of heroes on
Iwo Jima and the way I figure it, if you got through one day on that island you were doing something "above and beyond" just to survive."
I would like to salute you guys.
You guys who won America's Battle.
You ordinary guys.
You heroes of Iwo Jima.
(After a silent pause Bradley turns to gaze at the six bronze figures for a moment and then walks across the wet grass to his seat.)