James Bradley’s Flags of our Fathers





James Bradley’s Flags of our Fathers

The novel, Flags of our Fathers, by James Bradley provides intricate detail regarding the five U.S marines’ men and a single U.S Navy Corpsman responsible for raising the United States flag at Iwo Jima. The novel indeed captures an unforgettable and reminiscing moment within history. Furthermore, the motivation behind the novel stems from the photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal, which captured the six men raising the U.S flag at Iwo Jima, which placed among the costliest and considerably horrific battles intrinsic within the Pacific Theater. Nonetheless, the success of the novel transcended the media based on the re-enactment of the book into the sensational film, Flags of our Fathers, by Steven Spielberg. Ceasing from straying, the book offers information regarding the flag-raisers and their lives from their innocent upbringing to their military vocation. As such, an assessment of the book provides a platform to analyze the different constituents of the novel.

The Author

The author of the critically acclaimed novel, Flags of our Fathers, is James Bradley. As an author of one of America’s best selling novels, Bradley utilizes literary techniques in order to provide an effectual account of the battle fought at Iwo Jima during World War II. Notably, Bradley is fond of utilizing brief and emphatic sentences as well as fragments of sentences in order to provide a detailed and formal account and initiate direct address. As such, Bradley uses rhetorical techniques as his main literary tools. For instance, at the end of Chapter 5, Bradley states that, “December 1944. The last Christmas for too many young boys. Then off for the forty-day sail to Iwo Jima” (Bradley, 207). The use of rhetoric is also evident in Chapter 6 when Bradley provides an emotional description of the battle by surmising that, “The boys would have only their buddies to depend upon, buddies who were willing to die for one another. As soon as they would” (Bradley, 254).

Furthermore, Bradley relies considerably on the use of anecdotes, letters and interviews from the individuals serving with the deceased flag-raisers as literary techniques. The letters gain use by Bradley as forms of characterization techniques, especially regarding the demonstration of other people’s opinions regarding the men. For instance, in Chapter 5, Bradley directly quotes from a person named Joe Rodriguez who conveyed a report to Mike Strank in order to indicate the manner in which Mike embodied the status of the exemplary Marine. As such, Bradley states that, “He was a born leader, a natural leader, and a leader by example…He had real concern for us, he was a big brother to us” (Bradley, 177).

Similarly, an inscription from a person named Kenneth Milstead provides a description of Ira by stating that, “Ira was always depressed” (Bradley, 191). In addition, Bradley uses direct address as a literary technique in order to achieve connection with the reader. This style is evident within the novel’s final chapters. For instance, in clarifying his relationship with Rene Gagnon Jr., Bradley states that, “Imagine six boys from your youth. Line them up in your mind. They are eighteen to twenty-four years. Select them now; see them. How many marriages, how many children will intersect their lives?” (Bradley, 560).

Even though most authors actually depict historical moments within the American milieu out of curiosity, it is clear that the motivations underlining Bradley’s authoring of the novel stemmed from his position as the son of one of the men who raised the flag. As such, one would assume that Bradley wrote the novel straight from the narration his father, John Bradley, conveyed to him. However, this is not the case since John Bradley never recounted the chronicles of the war or the flag raising at Iwo Jima or even Rosenthal’s photograph until his death. Nonetheless, after his father’s demise at seventy years, Bradley’s family discovered bunged partitions of photos and inscriptions regarding the Pacific Theater war, which formed the need to write the novel based on actual evidence.

The Character, Ira Hayes

Ira Hayes is among the four men that situated the U.S flag at Iwo Jima. A personal account of selection of such a character revolves around a similarity in personality especially concerning Ira’s depressing nature. Even before the war, Ira reflected a Christian background. This is in accordance with the influence his mother, Nancy, directed on him due to her consistent and early teaching of the Bible to her son. Furthermore, Ira gained the description of a shy, sensitive, boyish and innocent young lad. This is evident when Bradley provides an account of the interview conducted with Sara Bernal, his foremost cousin. According to Sara, “Hayes was a 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…” (Bradley, 39)

Nevertheless, the determination encompassing Ira’s will to fight for the United States stemmed from his racial position as a Pima Indian. Irrespective of the hostilities eminent within the Americans and the Red Indians, the Pima tribe was particularly peaceful. Nonetheless, irrespective of his tribe’s peaceful stance, Ira still fought in the battle due to his passion and determination to serve in the war, especially the United States Marine Corps with respect to the events surrounding the surprise ambush on the Pearl Harbor. In supporting this assertion regarding Ira’s drive to serve in the army, one of his trusted friends and classmate, Eleanor Pasquale, asserted that, “Every morning in school, we would get a report on World War II. We would sing the anthems of the Army, Marines, and the Navy” (Bradley, 41-42).

After his enrolment in the Marine Corps, Hayes received considerable involvement especially in World War II. At the Battle of Iwo Jima, Hayes was among the six men that raised the U.S flag at Mount Suribachi. In 1945, on February 23, Hayes together with Mike Strank, Harlon Block, Franklin Sousley, Rene Gagnon and Jack Bradley, proceeded on raising the second of the U.S flags on Mount Suribachi. Even though the battle at Iwo Jima left Strank, Block and Sousley, Hayes survived the battle and managed to receive an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps. Nonetheless, in his struggle to adapt to the common life by carrying out menial tasks within the reservation, Hayes drifted in to a life of alcohol and sequential imprisonment and in January 1955, died from alcohol poisoning.

The Flag at Mount Suribachi

Indeed, the flag raised at Iwo Jima by the six men illustrates a historical monument in the United States’ military history. Even though the raising of the flag receives illustration as a victorious stance regarding the U.S. victory against Japan in the Pacific Theater, the flag occupies the real different and depressing image of bloodletting and sacrifice that evades most Americans. Nonetheless, as part of their tactic to defeat Japan, the United States invaded islands in proximity to the Asian nation. As such, the flag originated as a means to indicate acclaimed territory by the United States and as such, assure full cooperation from the natives within the islands regarding the invasion of Japan. The first flag raised at Mount Suribachi indicated the capture of the mountain with respect to Harold Schrier, Boots Thomas, James Michels, Hank Hansen and Charles Lindberg, who gained recognition for implying the initial raising of the flag (Bradley, 206).

However, the second flag raised at Mount Suribachi by the six flag-raisers served to provide a greater and larger means of identification for the other marines who were at the other side of the island. This is because the first flag was relatively small. Nonetheless, the second flag, which was larger, was a symbol that would enable the marines who were at the island’s end to exude calmness and composure. Furthermore, the flag acted as a symbol of victory and a considerable display of effort that the U.S. Marines sacrificed in order to advocate justice in response to the Pearl Harbor Attack by Japan.


The Battle at Iwo Jima was indeed an intense scuffle. Indeed, the enormous amount of bloodletting that characterized the battle as an aspect of the Second World War illustrated the manner in which numerous Americans sacrificed their lives in a patriotic manner in order to establish America’s freedom. Nonetheless, through an articulate assessment of the novel, it is evident that the real heroes of the Battle are the ones that died during the war and the ones that did not receive remembrance. Furthermore, the recognition of the flag-raisers was mere publicity especially for the media based on the reality that not much thought and consideration was put in remembering those that died and those that survived the war traumatized.


The novel, Flags of our Fathers, is an interesting and depressing book. By providing an intricate encounter of the lives and events circulating Ira Hayes, Mike Strank, Harlon Block, Franklin Sousley, Rene Gagnon and Jack Bradley, Bradley offers an emotional and heartfelt memoir of the forgotten heroes of the United States. Indeed, the novel represents a significant part of America’s history as well as its injustice towards the many that sacrificed their lives for her independence and freedom.






















Works Cited

Bradley, James. Flags of Our Fathers. New York: Bantam Books, 2000. Print.

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