US Marines investigate identities of the men in famous WW2 Iwo Jima photo

The inquiry comes after two amateur historians discovered discrepancies in other photos from that day

Feliks Garcia
New York
Tuesday 03 May 2016 18:49 BST
Associated Press photographer took the historic photo during the 23 February 1945 battle AP
Associated Press photographer took the historic photo during the 23 February 1945 battle AP

The United States Marine Corps is investigating a possible misidentification of one of the most iconic images captured during World War II, when six soldiers raised the American flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The review comes after amateur historians examined photographs taken from the same day and suggest that Navy Corpsman John Bradley, one of the men believed to be raising the flag, was not one of the men in the photo.

During an intense battle with Japanese forces on 23 February 1945, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal shot the picture of the six men on Mount Suribachi without getting their names. The US military identified the men per orders from President Franklin D Roosevelt. The other men in the photo were identified as Marines Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, Harlon Block, Michael Strank, and Franklin Sousley.

“The Marine Corps is examining information provided by a private organization related [to] Joe Rosenthal’s Associated Press photograph of the second flag raising on Iwo Jima,” the Marines said in a statement.

The photo came under scrutiny after Nebraska-native history buff Eric Krelle, along with Irishman Stephen Foley, cast doubts on the official story - their efforts were profiled in 2014 by the Omaha World-Herald.

Mr Foley became fixated on the Iwo Jima photo while recovering from a hernia operation, where he read books on the famous battle. He began to notice inconsistencies in Mr Bradley clothing in photos apparently taken that same day.

Mr Bradley (left) is shown wearing his pants with a cuff above the boot in photo taken shortly after flag was raised AP

The man in the photo is wearing uncuffed pants that covered his boots, and what he says is a soft cap under his helmet. In other photos of Mr Bradley, according to Mr Foley, his pants appeared cuffed and he did not seem to be wearing a soft cap beneath his helmet.

With the help of Mr Krelle, who runs a website about the Marines’ 5th Division who fought at Iwo Jima, Mr Foley developed a hypothesis about who may actually be in the celebrated picture.

Based on analysis of other photos taken that day, the two determined that it is most likely Marine private Harold Henry Schultz, who died in 1995, according to the AP.

In 2000, James Bradley, Mr Bradley’s son, wrote a best-selling novel about the lives of the men who raised the flag, Flags of Our Fathers. Clint Eastwood adapted the story into the 2006 film of the same title.

The author was shocked upon hearing news of the investigation.

“This is unbelievable,” he told the AP. “I’m interested in facts and truths, so that’s fine, but I don’t know what’s happening.”

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