Sunday, May 22, 2016

Native American Biographies: Ira Hamilton Hayes: WWII Hero


Johnny Cash does a good job telling Ira hayes' story.  This song was written by Peter LaFarge after he saw the movie "The Outsider" starring Tony Curtis as Ira hayes.

postage stamp depicting the famous photograph
Marine recruiting photograph
Training as a paratrooper, camp photograph
 Hayes was born in Sacaton, Arizona in 1923.   He was Pima.  His family remembers him as a shy and sensitive child.   When the war started he volunteered for the Marines for the remainder of the war.  He was trained in San Diego and assigned to the Pacific theater as a paratrooper.  He served in three major engagements.  He first fought in occupation Vella Lavalle Island which took about three months of fighting.  He was then moved to Bougainville, where the Marines were already engaged.  This was also heavy fighting that lasted another couple of months.  After eleven months in the Pacific, and two major engagements he received leave back in San Diego.  There he was assigned to a different unit, (non-paratrooper) and trained for the landing on Iwo Jima.  He landed with the initial assault on the island and the Marines were heavily engaged for a month and a half.  Ira hayes was captured as one of those raising the flag on Mount Suribachi.  He with four other Marines and a Navy Sailor were immortalized in a picture taken of the event.  The picture was taken by Joe Rosenthal.  It is likely the most viewed photo of the war and was put on a postage stamp and a War Bonds poster.
As a result Ira was reassigned to a bond-promoting assignment tour and held as a hero.  Ira was discharged from the Marines after the war and returned home.  Hayes was still in demand as a speaker.  He also portrayed himself in a move "The Sands of Iwo Jima."  He knew he was being exploited even as his people suffered.   With limited education he found it difficult to get a job.  He also struggled with alcohol.  At age 32 he was found dead in a ditch from exposure and alcohol poisoning.  He died in Bapchule, Arizona and was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

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