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'Ballad of Ira Hayes' Honors Native American Veteran

Wisconsin World War II Stories: The Pacific

"Ballad of Ira Hayes", Iwo Jima Veteran | Wisconsin Historical Society
Enlarge Soldiers loading crates of blood at Falalop Island.

Blood Transport, 1945

Falalop Island. This image of soldiers loading crates of blood at Falalop Island was one of many taken by Milwaukee photographer Dickey Chapelle that document the latter stage of World War II in the Pacific. View the original source document: WHI 11370

Grade level: Elementary

Duration: More than one class period

Students will study the words and listen to the song, "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," written in honor of a Native American World War II veteran of Iwo Jima. In analyzing the words to this song, students will consider the sacrifices made by Americans from all backgrounds and regions. The culminating activity for this lesson asks students to research their own family members (or friend of the family) who served at home or abroad. To culminate this study, students can create a memorial in honor of their family member or friend at the new World War II Memorial (Washington, D.C.) via the website.

This lesson is one of four lessons related to Wisconsin Public Television World War II Stories video series. Depending upon time available, the lessons may be used with the videos, or they can stand alone. Since the subject of the video is World War II Europe, several of the lessons could be used in a World History or European History course as well as in U.S. History. Specifically, these lessons offer greater depth on the topics found in video one, The Struggle, although you will notice some overlap. They should provide students with a smooth transition to deeper study of World War II.


Students will:

  • Formulate historical questions
  • Obtain historical data
  • Interrogate historical data
  • Identify the gaps in the available records


When the war in Europe ended in the spring of 1945, Americans were jubilant, but there was also an awareness that our soldiers would not necessarily come home. The war in the Pacific raged on, and victory there was still to come. The third video in the Wisconsin World War II Stories examines the Pacific Theater through the stories of sailors, pilots, medical personnel, and U.S. Marines who served there.

Over the past several decades, high school students have learned a great deal about the European theater of World War II. From the 1950s onward, the popular media created numerous images of the war in Europe. In addition, U.S. history textbooks devote significantly more space to the war in Europe. Most of their coverage of World War II in the Pacific centers on two events: Pearl Harbor and the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. Today, students tend to be unfamiliar with the geography of the Pacific, the battles, or the timeline beyond the attack on Pearl Harbor and the conclusion of the war.

As you view the video on the Pacific you will learn that this story is very compelling. In dealing with less well-studied subjects---the story of the USS "Indianapolis", for example -- the video presents a tremendously interesting history. The lessons in this part of Wisconsin World War II Stories span interest areas and levels. They include geography, technology, and human interest studies, and draw upon a wide array of social studies skills. The lesson plans can be combined with partial or whole use of the videotape or online video clips, or the lessons can be used independently. The five videotapes in this series can, with the lesson plans, constitute a complete World War II unit.

Resource Materials


  1. Have students read the brief histories of Ira Hayes.
  2. Ask students to study the Joe Rosenthal photograph.
    Use the Photo Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives to help in this study.
  3. Next, have students listen to the song, sung by Bob Dylan.You may consider providing a transcript of the song lyrics to aid student comprehension.
  4. Ask students to write their reactions to the song immediately after hearing it sung.
  5. Hold a discussion using the questions found on the "Ira Hayes Ballad" worksheet.
  6. For students who are interested in doing so, help them write and submit a memorial that is historically accurate. Read the "Introduction" at the "Registry" for the World War II Memorial. Then guide students to search the registry. If the individual is not already registered, help students "Register an Honoree."


  1. Ask students to research the history of the Pima Indians or other Native American Tribes. Students should include traditions prior to the establishment of reservations in the United States, as well as statistical information and way of life since then. Research could be summarized in a poster or slide show.
  2. On August 21, 2004, the last surviving member of the World War II "Code Talkers" from the Meskwaki Indian Tribe in Tama County, Iowa died. His name was Frank Sanache. Ask students to research the "Code Talkers" and create a poster that explains their wartime contribution and which tribes were involved in the World War II effort to use American Indian languages as military codes. If there are surviving "Code Talkers" in your area, arrange to learn more about them, perhaps inviting one to speak to your class.


National Standards for United States History: Exploring the American Experience

(National Center for History in the Schools, UCLA)

Era 8, Standard 3 - The causes and course of World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, and its reshaping of the U.S. role in world affairs.


Standard 3B - The student understands World War II and how the Allies prevailed.
5-12Explain the major turning points of the war and contrast military campaigns in the European and Pacific theaters.
7-12Analyze Hitler's "final solution" and the Allies' responses to the Holocaust and war crimes.
9-12Evaluate the wartime aims and strategies hammered out at conferences among the Allied powers.
7-12Evaluate the decision to employ nuclear weapons against Japan and assess later controversies over the decision.
5-12Explain the financial, material, and human costs of the war and analyze its economic consequences for the Allies and the Axis powers.
7-12Describe military experiences and explain how they fostered American identity and interactions among people of diverse backgrounds.
7-12Explain the purposes and organization of the United Nations.

Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Social Studies


Standard A - Geography: People, Places, and Environments
A12.13Explain the major turning points of the war and contrast military campaigns in the European and Pacific theaters.
Standard B - History: Time, Continuity, and Change
B.12.1Explain different points of view on the same historical event, using data gathered from various sources, such as letters, journals, diaries, newspapers, government documents, and speeches
B.12.2Analyze primary and secondary sources related to a historical question to evaluate their relevance, make comparisons, integrate new information with prior knowledge, and come to a reasoned conclusion
B.12.4Assess the validity of different interpretations of significant historical events
B.12.5Gather various types of historical evidence, including visual and quantitative data, to analyze issues of freedom and equality, liberty and order, region and nation, individual and community, law and conscience, diversity and civic duty; form a reasoned conclusion in the light of other possible conclusions; and develop a coherent argument in the light of other possible arguments
B.12.6Select and analyze various documents that have influenced the legal, political, and constitutional heritage of the United States
B.12.7Identify major works of art and literature produced in the United States and elsewhere in the world and explain how they reflect the era in which they were created
B.12.9Select significant changes caused by technology, industrialization, urbanization, and population growth, and analyze the effects of these changes in the United States and the world
Standard C - Political Science and Citizenship: Power, Authority, Governance, and Responsibility
C.12.1Identify the sources, evaluate the justification, and analyze the implications of certain rights and responsibilities of citizens
C.12.8Locate, organize, analyze, and use information from various sources to understand an issue of public concern, take a position, and communicate the position


These lesson plans are designed to be used with Wisconsin World War II Stories: The Pacific, a video series created by Wisconsin Public Television and the Wisconsin Historical Society, in association with the Wisconsin Dept. of Veterans Affairs. The lessons in this part of Wisconsin World War II Stories span interest areas and levels. They include geography, technology, and human interest studies, and draw upon a wide array of social studies skills. Information on the series can be found on the Wisconsin Stories Website.

Author: Victoria Zuleger Straughn