Iwo Jima, Misidentified

The Marine Corps has acknowledged it wrongly identified one of the six men in the iconic World War II image, USA Today reports.

Joe Rosenthal / AP

One mystery is over, but another is born: The Marine Corps said Thursday that Navy Corpsman John Bradley was not in the iconic photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima, USA Today reports Thursday, but the man who the Corps identified as having participated in the moment spent his life in relative anonymity.

A Marine Corps investigation found Private 1st Class Harold Schultz was among the six men who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945. The others are: Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, Harlon Block, Michael Strank, and Rene Gagnon.

Schultz died in 1995, but never publicly talked about his role, USA Today added.

More on Schultz:

Schultz, who enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 17, was seriously injured in fighting on the Japanese island and went on to a 30-year career with the U.S. Postal Service in Los Angeles after recovering from his wounds. He was engaged to a woman after the war, but she died of a brain tumor before they could wed, said his stepdaughter, Dezreen MacDowell. Schultz married MacDowell's mother at age 63.

Analysts believe Schultz, who received a Purple Heart, knew he was in the iconic image, but chose not to talk about it.

“Why doesn’t he say anything to anyone,” Charles Neimeyer, a Marine Corps historian who was on the panel that investigated the identities of the flag raisers, told the newspaper. “That’s the mystery.”

“I think he took his secret to the grave,” he said.

There had been two flags raised on Iwo Jima that day, and it’s the second one that was captured by Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, that became iconic the world over. Neimeyer says Bradley took part in the first flag-raising, and may have confused the two. Bradley’s son, the writer James Bradley, acknowledged as much to the AP in an interview last month.

The AP added at the time.

After Rosenthal shot the photo, the flag-raisers quickly moved onto other tasks, and it was impossible for him to get their names. That task was left to the Marines after the picture prompted an overwhelming response and the government decided to use the image in an upcoming sale of war bonds to finance the continued fighting.

Questions about the identities of those in the photo were raised as far back as 2014. The Omaha World-Herald reported at the time that Schultz might have been mistaken for Bradley. The Corps launched an investigation last month into those claims.

Strank, Block, and Sousley died soon after the photo was taken, but Bradley, Hayes, and Gagnon became national heroes and toured the country selling war bonds.

Some 70,000 Marine and 18,000 Japanese soldiers began fighting on Iwo Jima, an island 660 miles south of Tokyo, on February 19, 1945. The U.S. victory was a turning point in the war’s Pacific Theater.