John Henry "Jack" "Doc" Bradley (July 10, 1923 – January 11, 1994) was a United States Navy corpsman during World War II. He partook twice in raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. He helped secure the flagstaff in the soft ground for the first American flag raised and helped five Marines raise the second larger replacement American flag with a longer and heavier flagstaff on top of Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945. He was the last surviving member of the second flag-raising.
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, and reportedly had an interest in entering the funeral business from an early age and finished an apprenticeship with a funeral director before entering military service.
Bradley joined the U.S. Navy at 19, after his father suggested to him that he enlist in the Navy so he could avoid ground combat; however, the Navy chose him to become a Pharmacist's Mate and he was eventually assigned to the United States Marine Corps. While serving with a Marine rifle company as a platoon corpsman, he took part in the assault on Iwo Jima in 1945, one of the most bitterly fought battles of the Pacific War's island-hopping campaign.
In March 1943, he began his Navy hospital corpsman training after basic training and was initially stationed at the U.S. Naval Hospital inOakland. He was assigned to the Marine Corps Fleet Marine Force and sent to a "field medical service school". Afterwards, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, of the 5th Marine Division, a newly activated infantry division which was being formed atCamp Pendleton, California.
Battle of Iwo Jima
- February 19: Bradley a member of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, landed with the ninth wave of Marines on the beach on Iwo Jima and after aiding beach casualties there, proceeded with his company to the front lines.
- February 21: Bradley saved the life of a Marine caught in the open under heavy Japanese fire and then stopped some other Marines from taking the wounded Marine to their safer position in order not to expose them to the enemy fire; he took the wounded Marine to their position himself. He was awarded the Navy Cross.
- February 23: Bradley and another navy corpsman Phm2c Gerald Ziehme were part of the 40-man combat patrol led by 1st Lt. Harold Schrier of E Company that successfully climbed up Mount Suribachi to capture the summit and raise the American flag. About two hours later, Bradley, a member of E Company's 3rd Platoon, helped raise a second and larger replacement flag and flagstaff with four Marines from E Company's 2nd Platoon, Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon Block, Pfc. Ira Hayes, Pfc. Franklin Sousley and company runner Pfc. Rene Gagnon who brought up the 2nd flag to Lt. Schrier. The first flag and flagstaff was taken down at the same time the second flag and flagstaff went up... in order for the American flag to be seen more easily from the ships and the beaches off Mount Suribachi located at the end of the island.
- March 12: Bradley and three other Marines receive shrapnel wounds from an enemy mortar round explosion. All four were quickly attended to by other corpsmen. He was wounded in the legs and feet and was evacuated from the combat zone to the battalion aid station and field hospital and was flown to Guam, Hawaii, and Oakland Naval Hospital. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal.
In May and June 1945, Bradley still recovering from his leg wounds, participated with two second American flag-raisers, Ira Hayes and Rene Gagnon, in the Seventh War Loan Drive held in several American cities that raised over $26 billion to help win the war. The three other second American flag-raisers, Sgt. Strank, Cpl. Block, and Pfc. Sousley, were killed on Iwo Jima after the flag raising on Mount Suribachi.
Bradley was medically discharged from the Navy in November, 1945.
Bradley married his childhood sweetheart, Betty Van Gorp, 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
He rarely spoke of the raising of the flag, stating once that he "just happened to be there". 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, MarineRalph "Iggy" Ignatowski. 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.
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.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.
Bradley rarely spoke of the flag raising, having seen it 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 raising it. Bradley only spoke to his wife once about the raising during their 47 year marriage. That was on their first date, and he seemed very uninterested with it during the conversation. 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.” 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.
Bradley refused to talk to reporters and avoided them at all costs. 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.” 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.”
In 1985, Bradley gave his only taped interview at the urging of his wife, who had told him to do it for the sake of their grandchildren. During that interview, Bradley said he would not have raised the flag if he would have known how famous the photo would have become. He stated that he did not want to live with the pressures of the media and desired to live a normal life. 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
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, the last to die of the six servicemen who had raised the second flag. He is buried in Queen of Peace Cemetery, Antigo, Wisconsin