Ira Hayes

“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

February 23, 1945, at age 23, an event occurred that would forever place Ira Hayes in this nation’s history books and irrevocably change his life. On a hilltop above a Pacific island, a small group of Marines struggled to raise the American flag to claim victory over the Japanese occupancy. As the flag was being raised, Ira rushed to help his comrades just as the photographer snapped what was to become one of the most famous pictures in history. That picture was the “Flag Raising At Iwo Jima” and it is Ira’s hands that are outstretched to give the final thrust that planted this symbol of American victory. Six men were caught in that photograph, three of them died shortly afterwards. The battle of Iwo Jima was a costly one for our troops. Only 5 of Ira’s platoon of 45 survived and of his company of 250, only 27 escaped death or injury.
Ira Hayes, following the war, was plagued with depression brought on by survivor guilt and became an alcoholic. His tragic life and death in 1955 at the age of 32 were memorialized in the motion picture The Outsider starring actor Tony Curtis as Hayes in 1961, and the folk song “The Ballad of Ira Hayes“, written by Peter LaFarge and recorded by Johnny Cash in 1964.[62] Bob Dylan later covered the song, as did Kinky Friedman.[63] According to the song, after the war:
You just do not shut out the war.  It is not a click on the remote.  It is the haunting of your soul.
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