After the death of his father, John, James Bradley was inspired to research the lives of the six men (including his father) in the famous photograph of the raising of the American flag on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. His idea was turned down by twenty-seven publishers over the course of twenty-five months, and was finally published in 2000 by Bantam Books. It would later be on the New York Times Bestseller List for forty-six weeks.
Bradley conducted extensive research and interviews with family members, friends, fellow Marines, and others to tell the stories of the six men before, during, and after the flagraising. His father, a navy corpsman, PFC Ira Hayes and PFC Rene Gagnon survived the war, while SGT Michael Strank, CPL Harlon Block, and PFC Franklin Sousley died later in the battle. He wrote Flags of Our Fathers with the help of Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Powers.
The book was a success, and soon after its release, Steven Spielberg acquired the film rights. In 2006, Spielberg produced the film with Clint Eastwood, who also directed, co-wrote, and scored it. James Bradley's father, John, is played by Ryan Phillipe. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, and Eastwood was nominated for a Golden Globe award for directing.