John Bradley (United States Navy)

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John Bradley
John Bradley.jpg
John Bradley stands next to a 7th War Loan "Now All Together" poster, in May 1945
Birth name John Henry Bradley
Nickname(s) "Jack" or "Doc"
Born (1923-07-10)July 10, 1923
Antigo, Wisconsin
Died January 11, 1994(1994-01-11) (aged 70)
Antigo, Wisconsin
Place of burial Queen of Peace Catholic Cemetery
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the United States Department of the Navy (alternate).svg United States Navy
Years of service 1942–1945
Rank PHM2cl small.jpg Pharmacist's Mate Second Class
Unit 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division

World War II

Awards Navy Cross
Purple Heart Medal
Combat Action Ribbon

John Henry "Jack" "Doc" Bradley (July 10, 1923 – January 11, 1994) was an American United States Navy Hospital corpsman in World War II who was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism in combat on February 21, 1945 while assigned to a U.S. Marine Corps rifle company during the Battle of Iwo Jima. For many years, Bradley was thought to have been depicted in a well-known photograph of soldiers raising an American flag and he was depicted on the Marine Corps War Memorial. In 2016, a Marine Corps investigation found that though Bradley was involved with an earlier flag-raising on Mount Suribachi that day, he was not one of the men who appeared in the photograph.

Early years[edit]

Born John Henry Bradley in Antigo, Wisconsin to James ("Cabbage") and Kathryn Bradley, he was the second of five children. He grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, graduating from Appleton Senior High School in 1941. He reportedly had an interest in entering the funeral business from an early age, and completed an 18-month apprenticeship course with a local funeral director before he entered military service.

U.S. Navy[edit]

Bradley enlisted the U.S. Navy on January 13, 1943 when his father suggested it as a way to avoid ground combat. Following his completion of Navy recruit training at the Farragut Naval Training Station at Bayview, Idaho, he was assigned to the Hospital Corps School at Farragut, Idaho in March 1943. After completing the Hospital corpsman course, he was assigned to Naval Hospital Oakland in Oakland California. In January 1944, he was assigned to the Fleet Marine Force and sent one of the "field medical service schools" at a Marine Corps base for training to serve with Marines.[1] After completing the course, he was assigned to the 5th Marine Division on April 15, a newly activated infantry division which was then being formed at Camp Pendleton, California. He was reassigned there to Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment of the division.

Battle of Iwo Jima[edit]

Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima
Staff Sgt. Lou Lowery's most widely circulated picture of the first American flag flown on Mount Suribachi (after the flag was raised).
Left to right: 1st Lt. Harold G. Schrier (crouched behind radioman), Pfc. Raymond Jacobs (radioman), Sgt. Henry "Hank" Hansen (soft cap, holding flagstaff), Pvt. Phil Ward (helmeted, with two hands on flagstaff), Platoon Sgt. Ernest Thomas (seated), PhM2c. John Bradley, USN (helmeted, standing above Thomas with hand on flagstaff), Pfc. James Michels (holding M1 carbine), and Cpl. Charles W. Lindberg (standing above Michels).

On February 19, 1945, the 5th Marine Division which included Bradley took part in the assault on Iwo Jima which was one of the most bitterly fought battles of the Pacific War's island-hopping campaign.

Bradley was assigned to Third Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines before and when they landed on the beach with the ninth wave of assault Marines at the south end of Iwo Jima near Mount Suribachi. After Bradley and PhM3c. Clifford Langley, the other E Company corpsman assigned to Third Platoon aided American casualties on the beach, they continued on with E Company as the 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines advanced towards Mount Suribachi, which was their objective on the southwest end of the island. On February 21, Bradley risked his life under fire to save the life of a Marine at the base of the mountain who was caught in the open under heavy Japanese fire. While still under and exposed to enemy fire, and in order to save the lives of other Marines who were willing to expose themselves under fire to bring back the wounded Marine, Bradley brought the wounded Marine to safety himself. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.

First flag-raising[edit]

At 8 AM on February 23, Bradley and Navy corpsman, PhM2c. Gerald Ziehme (replaced PhM3c. Langley who was wounded in action on February 21),[2] were part of the 40-man combat patrol (mostly from Third Platoon, Easy Company) that was sent to climb up the east slope of Mount Suribachi to seize and occupy the crest. E Company's executive officer, First Lieutenant Harold Schrier who volunteered to lead the patrol, was to raise an American flag to signal that the mountaintop was captured.

Lt. Schrier and his men reached the top after a small number of Japanese sniper shots, then there was brief skirmish at the rim of the crater. On top, the Marines found a steel pipe to attach the flag unto. The flagstaff was taken to the highest position on the crater. Schrier, Platoon Sgt. Ernest Thomas and Sgt. Henry Hansen, raised the flag, planting the steel pipe into the ground approximately 10:20 AM.[3] Seeing the raising of the national colors immediately caused loud cheering from the Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen on the beach below and from the men on the ships near the beach. After the flag was raised, Bradley, who was with the group of Marines near the flagstaff, pitched in to help the flagstaff stay vertical in the terrific winds on the volcano.

Second flag-raising[edit]

In order for the American flag to be seen more easily from the ships, beaches, and land off and around Mount Suribachi, it was decided that another larger flag should be flown on Mt. Suribachi. Marine Sgt. Michael Strank a squad leader from Second Platoon, E Company, was ordered to ascend Mount Suribachi with three Marines from his squad and raise the replacement flag. He then ordered Cpl. Harlon Block, Pfc. Ira Hayes, and Pfc. Franklin Sousley to go with him up Suribachi. Pfc. Rene Gagnon the company's runner (messenger), was ordered to take the replacement flag up the mountain and return with the first flag that was flying on top.

Staff Sgt. Bill Genaust's film shot of the second flag raising excerpted from the 1945 "Carriers Hit Tokyo" newsreel

Once all five Marines were on top, another pipe was found and the replacement flag was attached to it. At approximately 1 PM, Lt. Schrier ordered the raising of the replacement flag and the lowering of the original flag. The flag was raised by Strank, Block, Hayes, and Sousley (Sgt. Hansen was incorrectly identified as being at the base of the flagstaff where Block was until January 1947), Gangon, and Pfc. Harold Schultz (Bradley was incorrectly identified as being a flag-raiser until June 23, 2016)[4][5][6] In order to keep the second flagstaff in a vertical position, rocks were immediately added to the base of the flagstaff, and then a rope was tied to it which was staked to the ground in three places.

On March 12, Bradley and three other Marines received shrapnel wounds from an enemy mortar round explosion. All four were quickly attended to by other corpsmen. Bradley was wounded in the legs and feet and was evacuated from the combat zone to the battalion aid station, field hospital, and was flown to Guam, Hawaii, and Oakland Naval Hospital. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal. On March 14, General Holland Smith ordered an American flag raised at Kitano Point on the northern end of the island, and the flag flying on the summit of Mount Suribachi be taken down. The battle of Iwo Jima was officially over on March 26.

Bond selling tour[edit]

On March 30, 1945, President Roosevelt (died in office April 12, 1945) ordered that the six flag-raisers in Joe Rosenthal's photograph of the flag raising including Bradley who was incorrectly identified as a flag raiser,[7][8] be sent immediately to Washington, D.C. in order to participate in the Seventh War Loan Drive. Gagnon, Hayes, and Bradley (still recovering from leg wounds) were believed to be the only surviving flag-raisers since Sgt. Strank, Cpl. Block, and Pfc. Sousley were killed in action. On May 9, a flag raising by Hayes, Gagnon, and Bradley at the Nation's capital kicked off the bond selling tour which began on May 11 in New York and ended on July 4 with Gagnon and Bradley's return to Washington, D.C. (Hayes left the bond tour on May 25 after he was ordered back to E Company in Hawaii). The bond tour was held in 33 American cities that raised over $26 billion to help pay for and win the war (war was over in Europe on May 2).[9][10]


Bradley was medically discharged from the Navy in November 1945.

Marriage and family life[edit]

Bradley married his childhood sweetheart, Betty Van Gorp (1924-2013),[11] settled down in Antigo, had eight children, and was active in numerous civic clubs. He rarely took part in ceremonies celebrating the flag raising, and by the 1960s avoided them altogether. He fulfilled his lifelong dream by buying and managing his own funeral parlor, but was tormented by memories of the war. Betty says he wept in his sleep for the first four years of their marriage and kept a large knife in a dresser drawer for "protection". He also had many flashbacks of his best friend Iggy, Ralph Ignatowski, who was captured and tortured by Japanese soldiers. Bradley never could forgive himself for not being there to try and save his friend's life.[12]

Marine Corps War Memorial[edit]

The Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial) in Arlington, Virginia, which was inspired by Rosenthal's photograph of the second flag raising on Mount Suribachi was dedicated on November 10, 1954[13]

Until June 23, 2016, Bradley was incorrectly depicted on the memorial as the third bronze statue from the base of the flagstaff with the 32-foot (9.8 M) bronze statues of the other five flag-raisers on the monument.[14] Franklin Sousley is now depicted as the third bronze statue from the base of the flagstaff (Harold Schultz in place of Sousley is now depicted as the fifth statue).

President Dwight D. Eisenhower attended the dedication of the memorial and sat upfront with Vice President Richard Nixon and Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Anderson. Also in attendance were two of the three surviving flag-raisers depicted on the monunment, Ira Hayes and Rene Gagnon, who were seated together with John Bradley who was not a flag raiser.[15] in the front rows of seats along with relatives of the those who were killed in action on the island.[16] Speeches were given by Richard Nixon, Robert Anderson who dedicated the memorial, and Lemuel Shepherd, the 20th Commandant of the Marine Corps who presented the memorial to the American people.[17] Inscribed on the memorial are the following words:

In Honor And Memory Of The Men of The United States Marine Corps Who Have Given Their Lives To Their Country Since 10 November, 1775


Bradley had a heart attack, but died of a stroke at 2:12 am in an Antigo hospital on January 11, 1994, at the age of 70. He is buried in Queen of Peace Cemetery, Antigo, Wisconsin.[12]

Flag raising views[edit]

On June 23, 2016, the Marine Corps announced after an investigation, that Bradley was not in Rosenthal's photograph of six Marines raising the second (and larger) flag on Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945, and stated he was involved with the first and earlier flag raising on Mount Suribachi the same day.[18]

Bradley did an oral interview about the flag-raising(s) on Mount Suribachi for the Navy on May 9, 1945.[19] In 1985, he did another interview about the flag-raising (second raising) at the urging of his wife, who had told him to do it for the sake of their grandchildren. During that interview, Bradley [20] said he would not have raised the flag if he had known how famous the photo (Rosenthal photograph) would become.[20] He stated that he did not want to live with the pressures of the media and desired to live a normal life.[21] He also stated, during the interview, that anyone on the island could have raised the flag and that he was just there at the right time [20]

Bradley rarely did an interview for the newspapers, he refused to talk to and avoided reporters as much as possible. Throughout his life, the press would contact his home to ask for interviews and he trained his wife and children to give excuses such as he “was on a fishing trip in Canada.” Even during the filming of the movie the Sands of Iwo Jima in 1949, Bradley told his wife to tell the townspeople that he was “on a business trip” in order to avoid attention that would be drawn to him.”[12] Despite his reluctance to talk to the media, family, and friends about the incident, he told his parents in a letter shortly after the battle that raising the flag was “the happiest moment of my life.” [12]

Bradley saw the flag raising(s) as an insignificant event in a devastating battle. He rarely talked to people about it and spent most of his life trying to escape the attention he drew from allegedly raising it. He stating once that he "just happened to be there".[12] He spoke to his wife once about the flag raising during their 47-year marriage. That was on their first date, and he seemed very uninterested with it during the conversation.[12] His daughter Barbara said that “Reading a book on Iwo Jima at home would have been like reading a playgirl magazine…it would have been something I had to hide.”[12] He told his children more than once that the only real heroes on Iwo Jima were those that did not survive. Bradley never told his family that he received the Navy Cross, and they only found out after his death.

His son James Bradley speculated that his father's determined silence and discomfort on the subject of his role in the Battle of Iwo Jima was largely due to memories of Bradley's wartime buddy, Marine Ralph "Iggy" Ignatowski.[12] In his own words, and only once, he briefly told his son what happened with "Iggy":

I have tried so hard to block this out. To forget it. We could choose a buddy to go in with. My buddy was a guy from Milwaukee. We were pinned down in one area. Someone elsewhere fell injured and I ran to help out, and when I came back my buddy was gone. I couldn't figure out where he was. I could see all around, but he wasn't there. And nobody knew where he was. A few days later someone yelled that they'd found his body. They called me over because I was a corpsman. The Japanese had pulled him underground and tortured him. His fingernails... his tongue... It was absolutely terrible. I've tried hard to forget all this.

— John Bradley[12]

Official reports revealed Ignatowski was captured, dragged into a tunnel by Japanese soldiers during the battle, and was later found with his eyes, ears, fingernails, and tongue removed, his teeth smashed, the back of his head caved in, multiple bayonet wounds to the abdomen, and his arms broken.[12] Bradley's recollections of discovering and taking care of Ignatowski's remains haunted him until his death, and he suffered for many years from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Military awards[edit]

Bradley's military decorations and awards include:

Navy Cross citation[edit]


For extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy at Iwo Jima on Feb. 21, 1945 as a hospital corpsman attached to a Marine Rifle platoon. During a furious assault by his company upon a strongly defended enemy zone at the base of Mt. Suribachi, Bradley observed a Marine infantryman fall wounded in an open area under a pounding barrage by mortars, interlaced with a merciless crossfire from Machine guns. With complete disregard for his own safety, he ran through the intense fire to the side of the fallen Marine, examined his wounds and ascertained that an immediate administration of plasma was necessary to save the man's life. Unwilling to subject any of his comrades to the danger to which he had so valiantly exposed himself, he signaled would-be assistants to remain where they were. Placing himself in a position to shield the wounded man, he tied a plasma unit to a rifle planted upright in the sand and continued his life saving mission. The Marine's wounds bandaged and the condition of shock relieved by plasma, Bradley pulled the man thirty yards through intense enemy fire to a position of safety. His indomitable spirit, dauntless initiative, and heroic devotion to duty were an inspiration to those with whom he served and were in keeping with the highest tradition of the United States Naval Service.

Movie part and portrayals[edit]

On June 23, 2016, the Marine Corps announced after an investigation, that Bradley did not raise the replacement flag on Mount Suribachi, and stated he was involved with the first flag raising which took place earlier that same day on Mount Suribachi.[23]

Bradley played and was portrayed as a flag-raiser in the following films:[24]


The following are named in memory of Bradley:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Navy Hospital Corpsman". Retrieved June 21, 2016. 
  2. ^ Robert Imnie, Associated Press, March 17, 2004: "Veteran closer to clearing his name after book cast doubt on his role at Iwo Jima" [1]
  3. ^ [2] Rural Florida Living. CBS Radio interview by Dan Pryor with flag raiser Ernest "Boots" Thomas on February 25, 1945 aboard the USS Eldorado (AGC-11): "Three of us actually raised the flag"
  4. ^ Gibbons-Neff, Thomas (May 2, 2016). "Marine Corps investigating photo of iconic flag-raising on Iwo Jima". Retrieved June 21, 2016. 
  5. ^ USMC Statement on Marine Corps Flag Raisers, Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communication, 23 June 2016
  6. ^ "Marines: Man in Iwo Jima flag raising photo misidentified". June 23, 2016. Retrieved June 23, 2016. 
  7. ^ USMC Statement on Marine Corps Flag Raisers, Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communication, 23 June 2016
  8. ^ [3] Naval History Blog, US Naval Institute, July 1, 2016, John Bradley's Account of the Iwo Flag Raising. May 9, 1945, US Navy interview of John Bradley
  9. ^ "The Mighty Seventh War Loan". Archived from the original on April 6, 2013. Retrieved June 23, 2016. 
  10. ^ video: Funeral Pyres of Nazidom, 1945/05/10 (1945). Universal Newsreels. May 10, 1945. Retrieved February 20, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Elizabeth M. Bradley Online Obituary, January 23, 1924 - September 12, 2013". Retrieved June 21, 2016. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Bradley, James; Powers, Ron (2000). Flags of Our Fathers. New York: Bantam. 
  13. ^ [4] Marine Barracts Washinton, D.C.
  14. ^ USMC Statement on Marine Corps Flag Raisers, Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communication, 23 June 2016
  15. ^ USMC Statement on Marine Corps Flag Raisers, Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communication, 23 June 2016
  16. ^ "Memorial honoring Marines dedicated". Reading Eagle (Pennsylvania). Associated Press. November 10, 1954. p. 1. 
  17. ^ "Marine monument seen as symbol of hopes, dreams". Spokane Daily Chronicle (Washington). Associated Press. November 10, 1954. p. 2. 
  18. ^ USMC Statement on Marine Corps Flag Raisers, Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communication, 23 June 2016
  19. ^ [5] Naval History Blog, US Naval Institute, July 1, 2016, John Bradley's Account of the Iwo Flag Raising. May 9, 1945, US Navy interview of John Bradley
  20. ^ a b c Bradley, James. "Iwo Jima Flag Raising on Mount Suribachi". Naval History and Heritage Museum.  Viewed March 31, 2012.
  21. ^ Bradley, James. "Americas Battle: A Speech Given by James Bradley".
  22. ^ Combat Action Ribbon (1969), retroactive from December 7, 1941: Public Law 106-65--October 5, 1999, 113 STAT 588, Sec 564
  23. ^ USMC Statement on Marine Corps Flag Raisers, Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communication, 23 June 2016
  24. ^ USMC Statement on Marine Corps Flag Raisers, Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communication, 23 June 2016
  25. ^ [6]
  26. ^ [7] Wisconsin Historical Markers
  27. ^ [8]
  28. ^ [9]

External links[edit]