Quiet Hero

By School Library Journal

Hayes, one of the Marines who struggled to thrust an American flag into a hill on Iwo Jima, became famous as a result of Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo. This illustrated biography gives context to a shy man who ‘never wanted to be a hero,’ tracking his childhood on a Pima Indian reservation, his experiences at an Indian boarding school, his military action in the Pacific, his deep depression following his return home, and his death at age 32. The author glosses over the less savory details of Hayes’s later years, but acknowledges his growing problems with alcoholism. The writing is clear and avoids fictionalized thoughts or dialogue. Soft, well-composed acrylic paintings support the text. Nelson cleverly obscures the faces of the soldiers in battle, emphasizing their anonymity, conveying the fact that any one of them could have been in Hayes’s position, and underscoring his struggle to accept attention that he believed to be undeserved (‘. . .the soldiers who died on Iwo Jima and in other battles were the real heroes’). An author’s note provides additional details and photographs. This book will prove a satisfying read for those in search of background on the iconic photograph, families looking for a patriotic story, and students seeking material on minority Americans.