Flags of Our Fathers

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Memories of Flags and of Our Fathers

In James Bradley’s bestselling book Flags Of Our Fathers, Bradley pays homage to his late father John Henry Bradley. John (also nicknamed “Jack” and “Doc”), was one of six men who raised the American Flag on top of Mount Suribachi during World War II. Mount Suribachi was located upon the small island of Iwo Jima, Japan. The photo of these heroic flagraisers quickly “became the most recognized, the most reproduced, in the history of photography.” (Bradley pg. 3) In Bradley’s book, he tells the reader why he wrote the book, about the characters in his story, and how the Flag came to mean so much to America and to the flagraisers themselves.

James Bradley was the middle son to the last surviving flagraiser on Iwo Jima. John Henry “Jack” or “Doc” Bradley, (James’ father) was a humble and kind United States Navy corpsman that died keeping many secrets from his children. Secrets that would eventually be unlocked for the entire world to read! The bestselling book was eventually even made into a movie by Clint Eastwood. In his quest to pay homage to his heroic father, I feel James wanted to bring to life the people whose faces changed America “for 1/400th of a second.” (Bradley pg. 3) He also wanted to and eventually succeeded in answering and unlocking the unsolved mystery of his silent father’s mark in time.

After his father’s death in January 1994, James, his brothers, and his mother we’re rummaging thru a dark closet when they discovered three cardboard boxes. Much to their surprise, they stumbled across “many photos and documents that Jack had saved when he was a flagraiser.” (Bradley pg. 5) Of special interest to James was a letter. “The cancellation indicated it was mailed from Iwo Jima on February 26, 1945. A letter written by my father to his folks just three days after the flagraising.” “The carefree, reassuring style of his sentences offers no hint of the hell he had just been through.” (Bradley pg. 5) Part of the letter read, “You know about our battle out here. I was with the victorious Easy Company who reached the top of Mt. Suribachi first. I had a little to do with raising the American flag and it was the happiest moment of my life.”

For the next four years, James unleashed great fervor in finding information about his father and the other five flagraisers. He had many unanswered questions such as,” “Who were those boys with their hands on that pole? Were they like my father? Had they known one another before that moment or were they strangers? Did they joke with one another? Did they have nicknames? Was the flagraising the happiest moment of each of their lives?” ((Bradley pg. 5) He researched and conducted several first hand interviews with each flagraisers relatives and friends. Alongside of Jack Bradley was: Harlon Block, Ira Hays, Rene Gagnon, Mike Strank, and Franklin Sousley. “By its conclusion, I knew each of them like I know my brothers, like I know my high-school chums. And I had grown to love them.” “What I discovered on the quest forms the content of this book.” “The quest ended with my own pilgrimage to Iwo Jima.” “Accompanied by my seventy-four-year-old mother, three of my brothers, and many military men and women, I ascended the 550-foot volcanic crater that was Mount Suribachi.” (Bradley, pg. 5) James and his family is shown in photos leaving a small monument in their fathers honor (one page before Chapter 17), on top of Mt. Suribachi. I believe James felt great satisfaction and eventually closure when all of his unanswered questions came to fruition.

John Henry Bradley, “Jack” or “Doc,” was born in 1923. He was born and later laid to rest in a town named Antigo, Wisconsin. He attended St. John’s Catholic School until he was seven. The depression hit hard and caused many layoffs in his father’s railroad profession. “It was then...
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