Military Wiki
Ira Hamilton Hayes
Nickname Chief Falling Cloud[1]
Born (1923-01-12)January 12, 1923
Died January 24, 1955(1955-01-24) (aged 32)
Place of birth Sacaton, Arizona
Place of death Bapchule, Arizona[3]
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery, Section 34
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch Flag of the United States Marine Corps.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1942–1945
Rank USMC-E4.svg Corporal
Unit 3rd Parachute Battalion
2nd Battalion, 28th Marines
1st Headquarters Battalion, HQMC

World War II

Awards Navy and Marine Commendation Medal with Combat "V"
Combat Action Ribbon
Presidential Unit Citation

Ira Hamilton Hayes (January 12, 1923 – January 24, 1955) was a Pima Native American and a United States Marine corporal who was one of the six flag raisers immortalized in the iconic photograph of the flag raising on Iwo Jima during World War II.[4][5] Hayes was an enrolled member of the Gila River Pima Indian Reservation (1859 [6]) located in the Pinal and Maricopa counties in Arizona. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on August 26, 1942, and after recruit training, volunteered to become a Paramarine. He fought in the Bougainville and Iwo Jima campaigns in the Pacific Theatre of Operations. On February 23, 1945, he helped to raise an American flag and flagstaff over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, an event photographed by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press.

Hayes and the other five flag-raisers became national heroes as a result of Rosenthal's flag raising photograph. In 1946, he was instrumental in revealing the true identity of one of the Marines in the flag raising photograph who was killed in action on Iwo Jima days after the flag raising, Cpl.Harlon Block. He was never comfortable with his new-found fame, however, and after his service in the Marine Corps, he descended into alcoholism. He died of exposure to cold and alcohol poisoning after a night of drinking on January 23–24, 1955. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on February 2, 1955.

He was often commemorated in art and film, both before and after his death. He portrayed himself raising the flag in the motion picture movie, Sands of Iwo Jima, in 1949. A giant Marine figure of him raising the flag on Iwo Jima is included with the other five flag-raisers figures on the 1954 Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. His life story was the subject of the movie The Outsider, in 1961, which inspired Peter La Farge's song The Ballad of Ira Hayes, made famous in 1964 when it was sung by Johnny Cash. He was also portrayed by actor Adam Beach in the World War II movie Flags of Our Fathers, in 2006.

Early life

Hayes was born in Sacaton, Arizona, a town located in the Gila River Indian Community in Pinal County, the eldest of six children to Nancy Hamilton (1901–1972) and Joseph Hayes (1887–1978).[7] The Hayes children were: Ira (1923–1955), Harold (1924–1925), Arlene (1926–1929), Leonard (1927–1952), Vernon (1929–1958), and Kenneth (born 1931).[7]

Joseph Hayes was a World War I veteran who supported his family by subsistence farming and cotton harvesting.[8] Nancy Hayes was a devout Presbyterian and a Sunday school teacher at the Assemblies of God church in Sacaton.[8]

He was remembered as a child, as being shy and sensitive by his family and friends. Sara Bernal, his first cousin, stated, "[Joseph Hayes] was a very quiet man, he would go days without saying anything unless you spoke to him first. The other Hayes children would play and tease me, but not Ira. He was quiet, and somewhat distant. Ira didn't speak unless spoken to. He was just like his father."[9] His boyhood friend Dana Norris stated, "Even though I'm from the same culture, I could never get under his skin. Ira had the characteristic of not wanting to talk. But we Pimas are not prone to tooting our own horns. Ira was a quiet guy, such a quiet guy."[9] Despite this, Hayes was a precocious child who displayed an impressive grasp of the English language, a language that many Pimas did not know how to speak.[8] He was also a voracious reader, learning how to read and write by age four.[8]

November 10, 1942: Pvt. Ira H. Hayes, at age 19, in his service uniform appearing ready to jump, at Camp Gillespie, Marine Corps Parachute School.

In 1932, the family settled in Bapchule, Arizona, located approximately 12 miles northwest of Sacaton.[8] The Hayes children attended grade school in Sacaton and high school at the Phoenix Indian School in Phoenix, Arizona. Esther Monahan, one of his classmates, stated, "Ira wasn't like the other guys. He was shy and never talked to us girls. He was so much more shy than the other Pima boys. The girls would chase him and try to hug him and kiss him, like we did with all the boys. We'd catch the other boys, who enjoyed it. But not Ira. Ira would just run away."[10] After the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Ira confided to his classmate Eleanor Pasquale that he was determined on serving in the United States Marine Corps.[10] Pasquale stated, "Every morning in school, [the students] would get a report on World War II. We would sing the anthems of the Army, Marines, and the Navy."[11] Hayes completed two years at the Phoenix Indian School and served in the Civilian Conservation Corps in May and June 1942. He worked as a carpenter before enlisting in the service.[12]

World War II

U.S. Marine Corps

Hayes enlisted in the Marine Forces Reserve on August 26, 1942.[13] He completed recruit training in Platoon 701 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California and in October volunteered for Marine paratrooper (Parmarine) training at the Marine Parachute School at Camp Gillespie located east of San Diego where he received the codename of Chief Falling Cloud. On November 30, he graduated from the Parachute Training School and received his silver "jump wings".[12] On December 1, he received a promotion to Private First Class.[2]


On December 2, 1942, he joined Company B, 3rd Parachute Battalion, Divisional Special Troops, 3rd Marine Division, at Camp Elliott, California. On March 14, 1943, Hayes sailed for New Caledonia with the 3rd Parachute Battalion which was assigned to Camp Kiser there on March 25 until September 26; the unit was redesignated in April as Company K, 3rd Parachute Battalion, 1st Marine Parachute Regiment[14] of the I Marine Amphibious Corps. The 3rd battalion was shipped to Guadalcanal and remained there until it was sent to Vella Lavella, arriving there on October 14 for occupational duty. On December 4, he landed with the 3rd battalion on Bougainville and fought against the Japanese as a platoon automatic rifleman (BAR man) with Company K during the Bougainville Campaign.[2] The 3rd Parachute Battalion was shipped back to Guadalcanal and he stayed there until sometime in February when the Paramarines were sent back to California.

5th Marine Division

The 1st Parachute Regiment was officially disbanded at Camp Pendleton, California in February 1944 and Hayes was transferred to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment of the newly activated 5th Marine Division. Hayes sailed to Hawaii with his company in September for continued training with the 5th division as it trained for the invasion and capture of Iwo Jima.

Battle of Iwo Jima

Hayes is pictured to the far left

On February 19, 1945, the 5th Marine Division landed on Iwo Jima. Hayes's rifle company platoon of Easy Company landed off the USS Talledega after being on the USS Missoula.[2] During the morning of February 23, Marines from the 3rd Platoon of Easy Company captured and raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi. In the early afternoon, Hayes was ordered to help take and lay communication wire up Mount Suribachi with his squad leader in Second Platoon, Sgt. Michael Strank, and Cpl. Harlon Block and Pfc. Franklin Sousley. Marine Pfc. Rene Gagnon, a runner in Easy Company, went up at the same time with a larger replacement flag to be raised. The five Marines together with Navy corpsman John "Doc" Bradley raised the second American flag and flagstaff. Bradley from 3rd Platoon, was part of the original 40-man patrol that climb up Mount Suribachi. Hayes fought on the island until the battle was over on March 26. Killed and wounded losses were heavy, he was one of five Marines remaining from his platoon of forty-five including corpsmen.[15]

The raising of the second American flag on Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945 was immortalized by Rosenthal and became an icon of the world war. Overnight, Hayes and the other second flag raisers became national heroes except for Harlon Block who was misidentified for several months as Sgt. Henry Hansen from 3rd Platoon, Easy Company.

War bond tour

Hayes and his unit left Iwo Jima on the USS Winged Arrow[2] for Hawaii on March 26 and he continued to train there again with his unit. On April 15, 1945, he boarded a plane to Washington, D.C. with orders to join C Company, 1st Headquarters Battalion, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C. Hayes with the two other surviving second flag-raisers of the battle of Iwo Jima, Pfc. Gagnon and PhM2c Bradley, were assigned to making public appearances in connection with selling government war bonds for the Seventh War Loan Drive. The bond tour began on May 10 in New York City after Hayes, Gagnon, and Bradley raised the flag from Iwo Jima at the Nation's capital during a ceremony at the Capitol steps the day before. The tour ended on July 4 in Washington, D.C.[16][17] Hayes, in charge of the flag they had raised on Iwo Jima, finished his partipation in the bond tour drive on May 24 in Indianapolis, Indiana and returned to Washington, D.C. with orders to rejoin E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines at Camp Tarawa in Hawaii.[2] He arrived at Hilo, Hawaii by plane and rejoined E Company on May 29.

On June 19, he was promoted to corporal.

Occupation duty

He served on occupation duty in Japan with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines from September 22 to October 26, 1945.


He was honorably discharged at Camp Pendleton, California on December 1, 1945.

Military decorations & awards

Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat "V"
Combat Action Ribbon[18]
Silver star
Presidential Unit Citation with silver 516 star
American Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four service stars
World War II Victory Medal
Navy Occupation Service Medal
Cp2j.jpg Parachutist Badge
Marineriflesharpshooter.jpg Rifle Sharpshooter Badge

Marine Commendation


The Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, takes pleasure in COMMENDING


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For meritorious and efficient performance of duty while serving with a Marine infantry battalion during operations against the enemy on VELLA LAVELLA AND BOUGAINVILLE, BRITISH SOLOMON ISLANDS, from 15 August to 15 December 1943, and on IWO JIMA, VOLCANO ISLANDS, from 19 February to 27 March 1945. Although often under heavy enemy fire, Corporal HAYES carried out his duties during all these campaigns in a highly commendable manner. Regardless of danger of personal fatigue he worked tirelessly, and his efforts greatly aided his unit in accomplishing its assigned missions. His courage, initiative, and loyal devotion to duty continually set an example for all who served with him, and his conduct throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
/S/ Roy S. Geiger,
Lt. General, U.S. Marine Corps

Commendation Ribbon Authorized[2]

Post World War II

Ira Hayes (left) with Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Bowron (1947)

Hayes attempted to lead a normal civilian life after the war. "I kept getting hundreds of letters. And people would drive through the reservation, walk up to me and ask, "Are you the Indian who raised the flag on Iwo Jima?"[19] Although he rarely spoke about the flag raising, he spoke about his service in the Marine Corps with great pride.

He was troubled that one of his war buddies, Harlon Block, one of the flag raisers who was killed in action days after the raising, was mistaken for Hank Hansen another Marine from his infantry company that was on Mount Suribachi and killed afterwards in action. He walked and hitchhiked 1,300 miles from the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona to Edward Frederick Block, Sr.'s farm in Weslaco, Texas in order to reveal the truth to Block's family. He was instrumental in having the controversy publically resolved, to the delight and gratitude of Block's family, especially Harlon's mother who knew it was Harlon in the flag photo all along.

He appeared in the 1949 John Wayne film, Sands of Iwo Jima, along with fellow flag raisers John Bradley and Rene Gagnon. All three men played themselves in the film. Wayne hands the flag to be raised to the three men. (The actual flag that was raised on Mount Suribachi is used in the film.)

He was arrested 52 times for public drunkenness.[20] Referring to his alcoholism, he once said: "I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they're not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me."[19]

In 1954, after the dedication ceremony of the Marine Corps War Memorial where he was lauded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a hero, a reporter approached Hayes and asked him, "How do you like the pomp and circumstance?" Hayes hung his head and said, "I don't."[21]

Hayes' disquiet about his unwanted fame and his subsequent post-war problems were first recounted in detail by the author William Bradford Huie in The Outsider, published in 1959 as part of his collection Wolf Whistle and Other Stories. The Outsider was filmed in 1961, directed by World War II veteran turned film director Delbert Mann and starring Tony Curtis as Hayes.[22]

The 2006 film Flags of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood, suggests that Hayes suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder.


Ira Hayes' white marble government headstone (not the original government headstone).

On the morning of January 24, 1955, Hayes was found dead lying near an abandoned adobe hut near where he lived at in Sacaton, Arizona. He had been drinking and playing cards on the reservation with his friends and brothers Vernon and Kenneth. An altercation ensued between Hayes and a Pima Indian named Henry Setoyant, and all left except Hayes and Setoyant.

The Pinal County coroner concluded that Hayes' death was caused by exposure and alcohol poisoning. However, his brother Kenneth, a Korean War veteran, believes that the death resulted from the altercation with Setoyant. The reservation police did not conduct an investigation into Hayes' death and Setoyant denied any allegations of fighting with Hayes.[23]

In the film, The Outsider, his death is dramatized for the screen. He is shown drunk and freezing on a mountain top and unable to climb down. He falls asleep and is shown frozen to death with his arm and hand reaching upwards, like the time he raised the flag and flagstaff on Mount Suribachi.

In the song, "The Ballad of Ira Hayes", his death is described as dying an indigent death of being drunk and drowning in 2 inches of water in a ditch.

On February 2, 1955, Hayes was buried in Section 34, Grave 479A at Arlington National Cemetery. At the funeral, former Marine flag-raiser Rene Gagnon said of him: "Let's say he had a little dream in his heart that someday the Indian would be like the white man — be able to walk all over the United States."[24]

1993 Marine Corps commemoration

On November 10, 1993, the United States Marine Corps held a ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial) commemorating the 218th anniversary of the Marine Corps. Of Ira Hayes, USMC Commandant General Carl Mundy said:

One of the pairs of hands that you see outstretched to raise our National flag on the battle-scarred crest of Mount Suribachi so many years ago, are those of a Native American ... Ira Hayes ... a Marine not of the ethnic majority of our population.

Were Ira Hayes here today ... I would tell him that although my words on another occasion have given the impression that I believe some Marines ... because of their color ... are not as capable as other Marines ... that those were not the thoughts of my mind ... and that they are not the thoughts of my heart.

I would tell Ira Hayes that our Corps is what we are because we are of the people of America ... the people of the broad, strong, ethnic fabric that is our nation. And last, I would tell him that in the future, that fabric will broaden and strengthen in every category to make our Corps even stronger ... even of greater utility to our nation. That's a commitment of this commandant ... And that's a personal commitment of this Marine.

Portrayal in music, film and literature

  • Hayes' story was immortalized in a song, "The Ballad of Ira Hayes", by Peter LaFarge. Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Smiley Bates, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Kinky Friedman, Tom Russell, Hazel Dickens, Patrick Sky and Townes Van Zandt each covered the song. In 1964, Cash took the song to number 3 on the Billboard country music chart.[25]
  • Ira Hayes appeared as himself in the 1949 John Wayne film, Sands of Iwo Jima.
  • In the 1960 telefilm The American, he was played by World War II Marine veteran Lee Marvin.
  • Tony Curtis played Hayes in the 1961 film The Outsider.[22]
  • Hayes was portrayed by Adam Beach in the 2006 movie Flags of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie was based on the 2000 bestselling book of the same name by James Bradley and Ron Powers.
  • The poet Ai dedicates her poem "I Can't Get Started" to Hayes.
  • Ira Hayes is mentioned in the poem "Petroglyphs of Serena" by Adrian C. Louis.
  • Ira Hayes was also mentioned briefly in the book "Code Talker" by Joseph Bruchac.
  • Ira Hayes was also mentioned multiple times in the book "Indian Killer" by Sherman Alexie.

Monuments, memorials, and namings

  • Marine Corps War Memorial (rear Marine flag raising figure), Arlington, Virginia.
  • Hayes Peak, the northernmost mountain in the Sierra Estrella, Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Ira Hayes Park (statue), Sacaton, Arizona.
  • Marine Corps League, Ira Hayes Detachment 2, Phoenix, Arizona.
  • American Legion, Ira Hayes Post 84, Sacaton, Arizona.

See also


  1. Chief Falling Cloud
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Ira Hayes, Pima Marine, by Albert Hemingway, 1988, ISBN 0819171700.
  3. Ira Hayes - Find A Grave.
  4. Ó'Riain, Seán (2006-09-01). "An Irishman's Diary". The Irish Times. 
  5. "Corporal Ira Hamilton Hayes, USMCR". Who's Who in Marine Corps History. History Division, United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2006-09-01. 
  6. [1]
  7. 7.0 7.1 Bradley & Powers 2006, p. 38
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Bradley & Powers 2006, p. 39
  9. 9.0 9.1 Bradley & Powers 2006, pp. 39–41
  10. 10.0 10.1 Bradley & Powers 2006, p. 41
  11. Bradley & Powers 2006, pp. 41–42
  12. 12.0 12.1 California Indian Education: Ira Hayes: O'odham USMC Airborne Warrior
  13. Bradley & Powers 2006, p. 42
  14. The U.S. Airbone, Attached Units — The U.S. Airborne during World War II, 1st Marine Parachute Regiment [2]
  15. American Indian Heritage Month: Iwo Jima Flag Raiser
  16. The Mighty Seventh War Loan:
  17. "Video: Funeral Pyres of Nazidom, 1945/05/10 (1945)". Universal Newsreels. May 10, 1945. Retrieved February 20, 2012. 
  18. Combat Action Ribbon (1969) retroactive from December 7, 1941:Public Law 106-65--October 5, 1999, 113 STAT 588, Sec. 564
  19. 19.0 19.1 Viola, Herman J.; Campbell, Ben Nighthorse (November 18, 2008). "Fighting the Metal Hats: World War II". Warriors in Uniform: The Legacy of American Indian Heroism. pp. 93–94. ISBN 978-1-4262-0361-9. 
  20. "Then There Were Two". Time magazine. February 7, 1955.,9171,823714,00.html 
  21. Jeffers, Harry Paul (April 1, 2003). "Ira Hayes". The 100 Greatest Heroes. Citadel Press. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-8065-2476-4. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 The Outsider at the Internet Movie Database
  23. Bradley & Powers 2006, p. 503
  24. Chavers, Dean (2007). Modern American Indian Leaders: Their Lives and Their Work. 1. Edwin Mellen Press. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-7734-5555-9.'s+say+he+had+a+little+dream+in+his+heart+that+someday+the+Indian+would+be+like+the+white+man. 
  25. Cash, Johnny (1977). Cash: The Autobiography. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-072753-6. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 

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