Quiet Hero

By Horn Book Magazine

Ira Hayes was a bashful boy who grew up to become a reserved man. During World War II he volunteered for service and, according to this biography, found in the Marines the sense of camaraderie he had missed during his childhood on the Gila River Indian reservation and at the Phoenix Indian boarding school. Stationed in the Pacific, Ira, always ‘an honorable warrior,’ was nonetheless often frightened. He was also one of six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima, an act that singularly thrust him into the popular imagination as Americans searched for heroes. Nelson captures this duality with a title that signals a private man and mural-like illustrations that honor an event that has taken on a mythic dimension. The text, primarily a chronological telling, acknowledges the idealism that led Hayes to enlist and to fight for the greater good, but doesn’t shy away from discussing the alcoholism that destroyed him. An author’s note, illustrated with photographs, adds detailed and focused historical information; a bibliography of adult sources concludes the book.