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World War II: 1939 ~ 1945
United States of America (All Branches)
Named Lots & Groupings

Selling Price: $65000 - Postage in the U.S.A. is: $85
I can state one fact. This is a National Interest item that has extreme historic significance. Not only because these men have all passed on and another such document is impossible to create, but because there has only been one other such document with all three survivor's autographs discovered and offered for sale from the earliest possible 7th Bond Tour period, and that document sold at Sotheby's on April the 28th of 1999 for $34,500.00.

Sure, a few stamp covers and other such curios from during the November 10th of 1954 dedication of the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C. have surfaced, but these are discounted among true collectors as being, "Well After The Fact" autographs, or "Replacement Autographs". This document was autographed while the battle for Iwo Jima was still underway!

Luckily, this item has been preserved under glass mounting and has minimal aging on the paper and matting. The wood frame is age dried and cracking on some of the edges. One frame nail is loose inside the frame, between the glass and the image. The photo's surface is about 11 x 9 inches. The autographs are very legible. By any standard, an item that is worthy of being displayed in ANY world class museum. A true piece of history and of national archive interest.

The item was discovered at a Yard Sale in the mid-1990s in Salt Lake City, right here in Utah. It was part of a small grouping of items that spanned the career of US Marine Corps officer (For Francis G. Miller) who began his service in WWI and was by the time WWII rolled around, was stated by the great-granddaughter to have been a Lieutenant Colonel and the Adjutant of the Marine Corps Association.

In a separate lot on my web site, are displayed Francis G. Miller's 1917, correct range rim serial numbered Good Conduct medal with 4 subsequently engraved front and rear, Re-enlistment bars which span Francis' service from 1921 - 1924; from 1924 - 1927; from 1927 - 1931 and from 1931 - 1935. All of these four Re-enlistment bars have the same rim serial number from off the original Good Conduct Medal recorded on them. His dog tag is also displayed here.

On to the autographs.

And as you are also no doubt aware - there are six Flag Raisers in the original Joseph Rosenthal photograph. There are four Marines in the front line and two in back. The four Marines located in the front-most row and in plain view are, from left to right: Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, John Bradley and Harlon Block. Obscured within the rear, behind the front row are Michael Strank (behind Sousley) and Rene Gagnon (behind Bradley). The flag was raised on February the 23rd of 1945.

Squad Leader Michael Strank was killed on March the 1st by friendly fire from a ship's heavy caliber round and within a few hours after Strank's death, the Assistant Squad Leader Harlon Block was killed by a Japanese mortar round. Franklin Sousley would die on the 21st of March. The last three survivors were all ordered off Iwo by the President himself so they could participate in the monumental 7th War Bond Tour that was gearing up in Washington, D.C. His Presidential Order merely read:

"Transfer immediately by air to Washington, D.C. the 6 men who appear in the Rosenthal photograph of flag raising on Mt. Suribachi."

Bradley was first to reach Washington D.C., having flown in from Oakland, California where he was a convalescent patient with wounds in both legs received at Iwo. Bradley also was awarded the Navy Cross for heroism at Iwo, unrelated to the flag raising. Bradley was assigned to Bethesda Naval Hospital. Rene Gagnon arrived in D.C. on the 7th of April of 1945. Hayes arrived last on the 19th of April of 1945 (he tried to hide his identity as one of the flag raisers, but was discovered via Gagnon's ordered/threatened testimony). Hayes and Gagnon were both assigned to Company C, 1st Headquarters Battalion, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C. These men all became national heroes within weeks and traveled as celebrities.

Notes of particular significance:

First: The autograph of Ira Hayes is affixed with his rank of "PFC." The historic significance of this particular annotation is that "ALL" of the "Well After The Fact, Replacement Autographs" with Hayes' autograph are ALWAYS signed as CORPORAL, or Corp. Hayes' signature of PFC was only possible from the date of his promotion to Private First Class on December the 1st of 1942 (a day after his graduating from Parachute Training School at Camp Gillespie in San Diego) to the day before he was promoted to Corporal on the 19th of June in 1945, when he returned to his unit in Hawaii after his leaving the 7th War Bond Tour in disgrace. So, this autograph is documented as being definitively from the 7th War Bond Tour era. That is a monumental issue.

Second: Autographs of all three survivors is rare, due to the lack of time these three men were physically together. Let's remember that these men were all at one place in time only from the 19th of April in 1945 when Hayes arrived last, until when Hayes left the 7th War Bond Tour. The issue is then, exactly when did PFC Ira Hayes leave the 7th War Bond Tour. There are no dates for his leaving that have been recorded on the web. All we are told is that on May the 28th of 1945, that Ira was already back in his unit (28th Marines) Hawaii at his own bequest after breaking down in Chicago on tour and puking drunk in front of the Marine Corps General and Medal of Honor Winner Alexander Archer Vandegrift.

We do know that Hayes initially traveled "TO" Washington, D.C. from his base in Hawaii by boarding a plane for the U.S. on 15 April and arrived in D.C. on April the 19th. From April the 15th to April the 19th is a total travel time of five days. Assuming that Ira wasn't returned to Hawaii by much slower train and then a week long boat trip, then at minimum are five days that would have been estimated to return to Hawaii. The identical number of days that it took him to arrive from Hawaii would have been needed to return. So at minimum, if Ira Hayes returned to the 28th Marines in Hawaii by that same route and method, then from between April the 19th and May the 24th of 1945 are exactly 35 days.

Also, let's remember that the ever modest John Bradley steadfastly refused to sign autographs on most every occasion. Sure, Gagnon probably signed every woman's leg between D.C. and Chicago and then some. But overall, the survivors shunned the spotlight. On the 20th of April the three met outside the Oval Office with president Truman. Later that same day they were received by Cabinet members, the Congress and Senate. On the 10th of May in 1945, Privates First Class Ira Hayes with Rene Gagnon and Pharmacist's Mate Second Class Bradley were escorted by Marine Technical Sergeant Keyes Beech, a combat correspondent, on the kickoff for the 7th War Bond Tour.

This image of the flag raising is signed: "IRA H. HAYES, PFC." "JOHN H. BRADLEY" and "R.A. GAGNON, PFC."!

Post war, Ira Hayes went back to the Pima Indian reservation at Gila River and attempted to lead an anonymous life. He tried to drown his "Conflict of Honor" with alcohol and was arrested for drunk and disorderly many times. He moved with the aid of support groups but always failed miserably to resurrect himself. In 1954, he attended the dedication of the Iwo Jima monument in Washington, D.C.. He was lauded by President Eisenhower, but when a reporter rushed up to ask him, "How do you like the pomp and circumstances?" He hung his head and said, "I don't." He died three months later after a night of drinking. He was 32.

Hayes' signature morphed over time into ever more rudimentary style. Whether that is alcohol induced or not, is beyond the scope of knowledge. What can be stated is that this is a true artifact of historic importance that is certainly worth its weight in gold.

On a side note. When the U.S. Marine Corps museum opened, I sent two emails to them to state that they could have this gem on permanent loan. Guess what. They never even replied to my first email sent to their web announced head of acquisitions. The second time a year later, the head of acquisitions emailed and never even said thanks, or neat item. He merely one lined me, "We don't accept loans." Bunch of yahoos!

As a final note: I also show three photos of the three surviving flag raisers that were taked "DURING" the lead up to the 7th bond drive as these three men individually held the Suribachi flag. Each of those three images are autographed. Now, I include them for the simple reason that these were the most era original contemporary autographs that I have been able to find to compare mine to. As time rolls on, autographs vary some, just like all of our signatures do. Especially Hayes' autograph varied throughout the short remainder of his life. Nevertheless, these three other official photographs with autographs, while not part of what I own, are displayed to validate the signatures that I have present upon my grand and unique item!

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