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The Ballad of Ira Hayes


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Written by Peter Lafarge, and recorded by Johnny Cash on 3/5/64, "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" reached #3 on the country charts.

Ira Hayes was a Pima Indian, who joined the U.S.Marines, for two reasons. One, to be able to send money home to provide for his family, and two, to get off the Pima Indian Reservation in Sacator, Arizona.

While serving in the Marines, Ira was in the South Pacific. On February 23, 1945, Ira jumped in to help out 5 other Marines in the task they were performing, and ended up becoming part of one of the most famous photographs in American history, taken by Joe Rosenthal:

iwojima.jpg

Ira is the one all the way in the back. His hands aren't touching the flagpole.

Well, of the six men who raised the flag, three never left Iwo Jima.

Franklin Sousley was killed March 21, 1945, by a Japanese sniper. He was 19 years old.

Harlon Blockwas killed in combat on March 1, 1945. He was 20 years old.

Michael Strankwas also killed in combat on March 1, 1945. He was 25 years old.

Of the three who made it off Iwo Jima alive:

All three were part of Bond Drive 7, (I think that's what it was called), and toured the U.S. , making apprearances.

Rene Gagnon died 21 years later, at the age of 53, bitter about his lack of fame. He was the only one of the six men to actually trya nd cash in on his accidental fame, having parts in two war movies after WWII had ended.

John Bradley, who's son wrote "Flags of our Fathers" (which I have read), was the only one of the remaining three, to live well into old age, passing away on January 11, 1994, of a stroke.

Ira Hayes battled alcoholism, and struggled with the attention he recieved. died on January 24, 1955. He was found in a ditch, not far from an abandoned hut, where he reportedly played cards and drank the night before. The coroner's report concluded he died from exposure and too much alcohol.

Ira Hayes' Life

*on a side note, it's pretty tough to see all six men, sohere is a colorized photo, with each person's name assigned a different color.

The Ballad of Ira Hayes

Ira Hayes,

Ira Hayes

CHORUS:

Call him drunken Ira Hayes

He won't answer anymore

Not the whiskey drinkin' Indian

Nor the Marine that went to war

Gather round me people there's a story I would tell

About a brave young Indian you should remember well

From the land of the Pima Indian

A proud and noble band

Who farmed the Phoenix valley in Arizona land

Down the ditches for a thousand years

The water grew Ira's peoples' crops

'Till the white man stole the water rights

And the sparklin' water stopped

Now Ira's folks were hungry

And their land grew crops of weeds

When war came, Ira volunteered

And forgot the white man's greed

CHORUS:

Call him drunken Ira Hayes

He won't answer anymore

Not the whiskey drinkin' Indian

Nor the Marine that went to war

There they battled up Iwo Jima's hill,

Two hundred and fifty men

But only twenty-seven lived to walk back down again

And when the fight was over

And when Old Glory raised

Among the men who held it high

Was the Indian, Ira Hayes

CHORUS:

Call him drunken Ira Hayes

He won't answer anymore

Not the whiskey drinkin' Indian

Nor the Marine that went to war

Ira returned a hero

Celebrated through the land

He was wined and speeched and honored; Everybody shook his hand

But he was just a Pima Indian

No water, no crops, no chance

At home nobody cared what Ira'd done

And when did the Indians dance

CHORUS:

Call him drunken Ira Hayes

He won't answer anymore

Not the whiskey drinkin' Indian

Nor the Marine that went to war

Then Ira started drinkin' hard;

Jail was often his home

They'd let him raise the flag and lower it

like you'd throw a dog a bone!

He died drunk one mornin'

Alone in the land he fought to save

Two inches of water in a lonely ditch

Was a grave for Ira Hayes

CHORUS:

Call him drunken Ira Hayes

He won't answer anymore

Not the whiskey drinkin' Indian

Nor the Marine that went to war

Yeah, call him drunken Ira Hayes

But his land is just as dry

And his ghost is lyin' thirsty

In the ditch where Ira died

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