I am the author of the story "The Boys of Iwo Jima" which appears
on your site as author unknown.
(It is from my book: Straight From the Heart) I would appreciate
it if you would include the author bio information at the end as it appears
Thank you in advance...
Chicken Soup author, Michael T. Powers
P.S. To verify that I am indeed the author of the story, you can view
the following website: http://www.HeartTouchers.com/IwoJima
The Boys of Iwo Jima
(From the book, Straight From the Heart)
By Michael T. Powers
Each year my video production company is
hired to go to Washington, D.C. with the eighth
grade class from Clinton, Wisconsin where I
grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy
visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take
some special memories back with me. This fall's
trip was especially memorable.
On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the
Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the largest
bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the
most famous photographs in history-that of the
six brave Marines raising the American flag at the
top of Mount Surabachi on the Island of Iwo Jima,
Japan during WW II. Over one hundred students
and chaperones piled off the buses and headed
towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure
at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he
asked, "Where are you guys from?"
I told him that we were from Wisconsin.
"Hey, I'm a Cheesehead, too! Come gather
around Cheeseheads, and I will tell you a story."
James Bradley just happened to be in Washington,
D.C. to speak at the memorial the following day. He
was there that night to say good-night to his dad,
who has since passed away. He was just about to
leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped
him as he spoke to us, and received his permission
to share what he said from my videotape. It is one
thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with
history in Washington, D.C. but it is quite another
to get the kind of insight we received that night.
When all had gathered around he reverently began
to speak. Here are his words from that night:
"My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo,
Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I just
wrote a book called Flags of Our Fathers which
is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right
now. It is the story of the six boys you see behind
me. Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting
the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was
an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine
Corps with all the senior members of his football team.
They were off to play another type of game, a game
called "War." But it didn't turn out to be a game.
Harlon, at the age of twenty-one, died with his
intestines in his hands. I don't say that to gross
you out; I say that because there are generals
who stand in front of this statue and talk about
the glory of war. You guys need to know that
most of the boys in Iwo Jima were seventeen,
eighteen, and nineteen years old.
(He pointed to the statue)
You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon
from New Hampshire. If you took Rene's helmet
off at the moment this photo was taken, and
looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would
find a photograph. A photograph of his girlfriend.
Rene put that in there for protection, because he
was scared. He was eighteen years old. Boys
won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men.
The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau,
was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He
was the hero of all these guys. They called him
the "old man" because he was so old. He was
already twenty-four. When Mike would motivate
his boys in training camp, he didn't say, "Let's
go kill the enemy" or "Let's die for our country."
He knew he was talking to little boys. Instead he
would say, "You do what I say, and I'll get you
home to your mothers."
The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes,
a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes walked off
Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my
dad. President Truman told him, "You're a hero."
He told reporters, "How can I feel like a hero when
250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only
twenty-seven of us walked off alive?" So you take
your class at school. 250 of you spending a year
together having fun, doing everything together.
Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only
twenty-seven of your classmates walk off alive.
That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his
mind. Ira Hayes died dead drunk, face down at the
age of thirty-two, ten years after this picture was taken.
The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin
Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky, a fun-lovin' hillbilly
boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, "Yeah,
you know, we took two cows up on the porch of
the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across
the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then we
fed them Epson salts. Those cows crapped all night."
Yes, he was a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. Franklin died
on Iwo Jima at the age of nineteen. When the
telegram came to tell his mother that he was
dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A
barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother's
farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all
night and into the morning. The neighbors lived
a quarter of a mile away.
The next guy, as we continue to go around the
statue, is my dad, John Bradley from Antigo,
Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived
until 1994, but he would never give interviews.
When Walter Kronkite's producers, or the New
York Times would call, we were trained as little
kids to say, "No, I'm sorry sir, my dad's not here.
He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone
there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back."
My dad never fished or even went to Canada.
Usually he was sitting right there at the table
eating his Campbell's soup, but we had to tell
the press that he was out fishing. He didn't
want to talk to the press. You see, my dad
didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks
these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a
photo and a monument. My dad knew better.
He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin
was a caregiver. In Iwo Jima he probably held
over 200 boys as they died, and when boys died
in Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed in pain.
When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher
told me that my dad was a hero. When I went
home and told my dad that, he looked at me and
said, "I want you always to remember that the
heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not
come back. DID NOT come back."
So that's the story about six nice young boys. Three
died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national
heroes. Overall, 7000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the
worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My
voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for
Suddenly the monument wasn't just a big old piece
of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It
came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt
words of a son who did indeed have a father
who was a hero. Maybe not a hero in his own
eyes, but a hero nonetheless.
End Note: A few days before placing the flag, John
Bradley had braved enemy mortar and machine-gun
fire to administer first aid to a wounded Marine and
then drag him to safety. For this act of heroism he
would receive the Navy Cross, an award second
only to the Medal of Honor. Bradley never mentioned
his feat to his family. Only after his death did
Bradley's son, James, begin to piece together
the facts of his father's heroism.
Michael T. Powers
Michael is happily married to his high school sweetheart Kristi, and has
two young boys. His stories appear in fourteen inspirational books, including
many from the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. The story above is from
his book: Straight From the Heart "A Celebration of Life". To
read more or to join the thousands of world-wide readers on their inspirational
e-mail list called HeartTouchers, send an e-mail to:
or visit: http://www.HeartTouchers.com
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