Flags of Our Fathers

Flags of Our Fathers Summary and Analysis of Chapters 15 and 16


Mothers around the country begin to receive the horrible news that their sons will not come home from Iwo Jima, including Martha Strank and Belle Block. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department makes plans for the Seventh Bond Tour. Bond tours are fund raising trips around the country, in which Americans are persuaded to donate to the war effort. There have already been six bond tours during this war, and the Treasury Department is nervous that the American people will be reluctant to support a seventh. The image of the flag raising, which Bradley capitalizes as The Photograph, helps with the intense publicity effort.

President Roosevelt sends orders to the Marine headquarters in the Pacific that he wants the six men who appear in The Photograph to be transferred home in order to participate in the Seventh Bond Tour. When Ira Hayes hears this news, he tells Rene Gagnon not to identify him as one of the men or he will kill him. Rene agrees to keep the secret, and he goes alone to Washington, D.C. However, under pressure at the Marine Corps Headquarters, he reluctantly reveals Ira's identity. On April 8, newspapers publish the identities of the flag raisers in the photograph, except Harlon Block is misidentified as Hank Hansen. Not long afterward, Franklin's mother, Goldie, learns that he has been killed in battle.

On April 12, the day that a parade is meant to be held in Rene's honor, President Roosevelt dies. Soon afterward, Ira and Jack arrive in Washington, D.C. Ira has made note of the misidentification of Harlon Block during his briefing at the Marine Barracks, but has been ordered by an officer not to say anything. He is upset that he has been ordered to lie, but remains silent. The three surviving flag raisers are introduced to the new President Truman and are officially honored in the Senate. Later that night, after Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn throws the first pitch at a Washington Senators vs. New York Yankees game, he introduces the three boys to a standing ovation at Griffith Stadium.

The Seventh Bond Tour begins, with the goal of raising fourteen billion dollars to support the war effort. On May 8, the news is announced that Germany has surrendered, and that Joe Rosenthal has won a Pulitzer Prize for his photograph. The opening ceremonies for the bond tour are held the next day before the flag raisers are transported to New York by train, accompanied by Marine correspondent Keyes Beech. The boys refuse the press's encouragement to portray themselves as heroes, rather insisting that they are not special among all the Marines who fought on Iwo Jima.

Feeling under a lot of pressure, Ira turns to alcohol for comfort. Somewhat encouraged by Keyes Beech, he is often drunk not just at night but during interviews with the press and important events. The Bond Tour progresses to Philadelphia, where a reporter asks them in front of the Liberty Bell if the famous photograph was posed. They respond that it was not. The next stop is Boston, where Pauline Harnois meet them unexpectedly, having traveled from Manchester, New Hampshire. She thrives in the spotlight and, excited by the prospect of getting to travel and be a star, begins to pressure Rene to marry her.

On May 14, the boys return to New York, where they are joined by Martha Strank, Goldie Sousley / Hensley Price, and Mrs. Madeline Evelley, Hank Hansen's mother, join them on the speakers' platforms. After New York, they travel to Chicago, still accompanied by Pauline Harnois, then to Detroit and Indianapolis, then back to Chicago. Because of his disorderly drunkenness, Ira Hayes is informed that he must report to his unit, Easy Company, in Hawaii. The other Marines notice that he has changed; he is getting drunk and acting like a loner. Meanwhile, Rene and Jack continue the tour without him, through every major and some small American cities. Finally, on July 4, the tour ends. It has exceeded all expectations, earning $26.3 billion.

The revenue raised on the Bond Tour is put toured the intensification of forces in the Pacific, suggesting an imminent attack on Japan. Rene is granted leave, and marries Pauline Harnois before being sent back to San Diego. Jack Bradley serves as best man, and Rene's mother, Irene, does not attend. Soon afterward, Rene is deployed to active duty in China. The image of the photograph is made into a stamp and Jack Bradley, being treated in Bethesda for his leg wounds, attends the Washington ceremonies that open the sale of the stamp.


Chapter 15 begins by emphasizing the importance of mothers: "In six pockets of America, six mothers waited for word." The flag raisers come from different backgrounds, but all are united by the fact that a loving mother is waiting for them. When Martha Strank finds out that Mike died, she faints, and her hair turns white within a couple of months. Goldie Sousley, now Goldie Price, screamed all through the night when she heard the news that Franklin had been killed. When Martha Strank, Gold Sousley / Hensley Price, and Hank Hansen's mother, Madeline Evelley, join the three surviving flag raisers for a publicity event in New York, observers avert their eyes reverently.

Bradley continues to display his disgust for the misleading press in his discussion of the publicity surrounding the Seventh Bond Tour. "There was almost no discussion of the facts surrounding the flag raising. The facts did not matter. The photo looked heroic, and that was enough." The press continues to blunder concerning the "staging" of the photograph when a commentator on the NBC Blue network asserts that Joe Rosenthal has posed it. As the press harasses the boys on the Seventh Bond Tour, they are urged to portray themselves as special heroes: "Clearly, modesty wasn't enough for the aggressive urban press. Glory was the thing that sold papers. The press wanted tales of blood-and-guts heroism from the living icons in front of them."

Repetition and listing are important writing techniques employed in these chapters to demonstrate the immensity of the Seventh Bond tour and of the toll taken by the war. In the beginning of Chapter 16, Bradley repeats "fourteen billion," the Treasury's monetary goal for the Seventh Bond Tour. To demonstrate just how much fourteen billion dollars was in those days, Bradley lists, "This in a country where an annual income of seventeen hundred dollars comfortably supported a family of four; where a Harvard education cost a thousand dollars, where a hotel room in New York could be had for three dollars; where a good breakfast cost thirty-two cents."

The theme of heroism is important as a symbol to the American public during the Seventh Bond Tour. Ira, Rene, and Jack are portrayed as heroes who survived Iwo Jima. However, they do not see themselves that way. "Heroes? They had just returned from the protracted horrors of one of the deadliest and most intense battles in history, where heroes around them had acted with unimaginable bravery, suffered, and died almost by the minute. And here was an American populace driving itself into a frenzy over... what?" President Truman tells Ira Hayes that he is a true American since he is a Pima Indian, and now he is a true American hero. However, Ira knows that being in the photograph is not what makes him a hero.

The Photograph becomes a symbol far beyond its original meaning during the publicity of the Seventh Bond Tour. Bradley uses the technique of short, dramatic sentence fragments to enforce the weightiness of this image: "The Photograph had become The Fact." Its transformation into a symbol is described in Chapter 16: "Detached - liberated - even from the merely factual circumstances that produced it, The Photograph had become a receptacle for America's emotions; it stood for everything good that Americans wanted it to stand for."