Summary

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Branch:
Navy 1
Birth:
10 Jul 1923 1
Death:
11 Jan 1994 1
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
John Henry Bradley 2
Person:
John Bradley 1
Gender: Male 1
Social Security Number: ***-**-0669 1
Birth:
10 Jul 1923 1
Death:
11 Jan 1994 1
Cause: Natural 1
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World War II 1

Branch:
Navy 1
Enlistment Date:
13 Jun 1943 1
Organization:
Navy 1
Organization Code:
NAVY 1
Release Date:
13 Nov 1945 1

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Stories

John H Bradley

Born John Henry Bradley in Antigo, Wisconsin to James and Kathryn Bradley, John was the 

second of five children. He grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin and reportedly had an interest in 

entering the funeral parlor business from an early age. 

When he was 19, his father suggested he enlist in the Navy so he could avoid ground combat. 

However, the Navy chose him to become a medical corpsman and he was eventually assigned to 

the U.S. Marine Corps. As a marine medical corpsman, he took part in the assault on Iwo Jima, 

one of the most bitterly fought battles of the Pacific War’s island-hopping campaign. 

In March 1943, Bradley began his medical corpsman training and was initially stationed at the 

U.S. Naval Hospital in Oakland. He was then assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, of the 

5

th Marine Division, which was being formed at Camp Pendleton, California. 

After participating in the famous flag-raising at Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima, John Bradley was 

awarded the Navy Cross for rushing to a wounded man’s aid under heavy Japanese fire. A few 

days later, he received several shrapnel wounds in his legs, and was evacuated from the combat 

zone to the hospital in Hawaii. At the time of Bradley’s discharge from the Navy, he received the 

following awards and decorations: Navy Cross, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation with one 

star (for Iwo Jima), American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one battle 

start (for Iwo Jima), and; World War II Victory Medal. 

John Bradley was one of three survivors of the battle and was brought back to the U.S. to tour the 

country for the seventh war bond drive which helped lift morale at home. Following this 

appearance, he married his childhood sweetheart, Betty Van Gorp, settled down in Antigo, had 

eight children, and was active I numerous civic clubs. He rarely took part in ceremonies 

celebrating the flag raising, and by the 1960’s avoided them altogether. He fulfilled his life-long 

dream by buying and managing his own funeral parlor, but was tormented by memories of the 

war. 

He rarely spoke of the raising of the flag, stating once that he “just happened to be there”. His 

son James Bradley (who wrote a book about the flag-raisers in 2000 titled “Flags of Our Fathers”)

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 John’s best friend, Ralph “Iggy” Ignatowski. 

The Battalion Aid Station for the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps 

Base (MCB) Quantico is named in honor of John Bradley. 

John Bradley had a heart attack, but died of a stoke in an Antigo hospital on January 11, 1994, at 

the age of 70, the last of the six men who raised the second flag to die. He said more than once to 

his children that the only real heroes on Iwo Jima were those that did not survive. John’s family 

had no idea he had received the Navy Cross until after his death. He is buried in Queen of Peace 

Cemetery, Antigo, Wisconsin. 

John H Bradley

John Bradley was born July 10, 1923 in Antigo, WI, and passed away January 11, 1994 in Antigo, WI. “Doc” Bradley was a Navy Corpsman who “just jumped in to lend a hand.” He won the Navy Crossfor heroism and was wounded in both legs. Bradley, a quiet, private man, gave just one interview in his life. In it he said . . . “People refer to us as heroes–I personally don’t look at it that way. I just think that I happened to be at a certain place at a certain time and anybody on that island could have been in there–and we certainly weren’t heroes–and I speak for the rest of them as well. That’s the way they thought of themselves also

John Bradley in later life . . . “Of the surviving Flag Raisers, only Bradley was successful in putting his life back together after the war.” —From the best-selling “Immortal Images” by Tedd Thomey

John Bradley returned to his home town in the Midwest after the war, prospered as the owner of a family business, and gave generously of his time and money to local causes. He was married for 47 years and had eight children. While Bradley had a public image as a war hero, he was a very private person. He avoided discussion of his war record saying only that the real heros were the men who gave their lives for their country.

The Global Media reported the death of a World War II icon on January 11, 1994 at the age of 70. But his hometown newspaper best captured the essence of Bradley’s life after the war: “John Bradley will be forever memorialized for a few moments action at the top of a remote Pacific mountain. We prefer to remember him for his life. If the famous flag-raising at Iwo Jima symbolized American patriotism and valor, Bradley’s quiet, modest nature and philanthropic efforts shine
as an example of the best of small town American values.” —Editorial, “The Antigo Daily Journal”

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