February 23, 1945 — Iwo Jima, Japan
John Bradley helped raise the flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was the only Navy man of the group. He was from Antigo, Wisconsin, and finished an apprenticeship with a funeral director before joining the Navy. He wanted to avoid combat so he became a medical corpsman with the Marines. During the Battle of Iwo Jima he jumped in to help the five Marines carry the American flag. After the war and the bond tour on which Bradley served with Ira Hayes and Rene Gagnon, he returned home to Wisconsin and started putting his life back together. Like Hayes and Gagnon, the only other survivors of the flag-raising team, John Bradley did not feel he deserved the fame he received for raising a flag. In one of the few interviews he gave, he stated, “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 certain time, and anybody on that island could have been there.” Bradley went on to live a full life, having eight children with his wife of 47 years. He started a funeral business which led him to modest success. He died at the age of 70, never forgetting, but not allowing the memories of Iwo Jima to destroy him. His son, James Bradley, wrote the bestseller Flags of Our Fathers that memorializes all six flag raisers and pays tribute to his father who lived a life that would honor his fallen comrades.