An internal investigation by the Marine Corps has turned up new information on the iconic photo of six men raising an American flag at Iwo Jima during World War II.
The Marine Corps says that they misidentified one of the men in the Iwo Jima photo after 70 years had passed since the photo was taken.
The inquiry found that one of the men holding the flag was actually private first class Harold Schultz and not Navy hospital corpsman, John Bradley, whose son wrote a book about his father raising the flag at Iwo Jima titled “Flags of Our Fathers”. That same book was turned into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood.
John Bradley had been in the first flag-raising photo on Iwo Jima and may have confused the two, Marine Corps historian, Charles Neimeyer told the Marine Corps Times.
The investigation raised another concern. Schultz died in 1995, but up until that point, he never mentioned his role in raising the flag and being a part of the photo to the public. According to his stepdaughter, he only mentioned his role in raising the flag once to his family when they were eating dinner and talking about the battle at Iwo Jima.
“My mom was distracted and not listening and Harold said, ‘I was one of the flag raisers,’” his stepdaughter, Dezreen MacDowell, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday with the NY Times. “I said, ‘My gosh, Harold, you’re a hero.’ He said, ‘No, I was a Marine.’”
The Marine Corps investigation concluded with near certainty that Schultz was one of the Marines in the photo depicting the second flag-raising of that day. The photo was taken by Joe Rosenthal on Mount Suribachi. The investigation into the photo was opened last year after questions were raised by producers creating a documentary on the photo.
The image reached iconic status just days after the photo was taken. The photo, which appeared on multiple front pages of national newspapers, became a symbol for the sacrifices that American troops were making while at war. The photo was the inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington that depicts the men in the same position, except at 32 feet tall.
Many World War II veterans chose not to speak about their exploits during the war because it reminded them of the horrors of it. Ira Hayes, who was one of the flag raisers wanted to remain anonymous but was forced to by orders from President Roosevelt so that he could be on war bonds.
Analysts were able to determine through facial recognition on photographs of the men were able to prove that Mr. Bradley was not one of the men raising the flag. They also compared ways in which the Marines wore their uniforms and equipment in photos to determine who the men were.
Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps appointed three star General Jan Huly to lead a panel of eight retired and active Marine commissioned and non-commissioned officers to investigate the claim in March. After six days of research, the panel voted that it was Mr. Schultz who was the one in the photo.
This was not the first time the Marines had to correct the people identified in the photo. In 1947 a Marine investigation found that Henry Hansen had been misidentified as one of the flag raisers and that it was instead Harlon Block. Both men were killed in action on the island.
James Bradley said in May that he was convinced that it wasn’t his father in the Rosenthal photo after reading an article in the Omaha World-Herald in 2014 that identified Schultz as the flag raiser.
The Marine Cosp said that the new identity of the flag raiser, Mr Schultz, do not undermine what the photo represents.
General Robert B. Neller said in a written statement that “although the Rosenthal image is iconic and significant, to Marines it’s not about the individuals and never has been.”