The photo served as the inspiration for the book and movie Flags of Our Fathers

By Lindsay Kimble
June 23, 2016 04:25 PM
Joe Rosenthal/AP

A man long credited as one of the six soldiers photographed raising the American flag over Iwo Jima in World War II was misidentified, the Marine Corps admitted.

Instead of Navy Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class John Bradley, the internal investigation concluded that the man in the photograph is actually Private 1st Class Harold Schultz.

Schultz died in 1995 without ever publicly acknowledging his presence in the photo, but his stepdaughter Dezreen MacDowell told the New York Times that the Purple Heart recipient once mentioned his participation in passing.

Bradley, whose son wrote Flags of Our Fathers, which was inspired by the photo, was not actually present when Joseph Rosenthal of the Associated Press snapped the image on Feb. 23, 1945 during the battle against the Japanese. The widely circulated picture served as the inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.

Earlier this year, Bradley’s son James Bradley said that his father had participated in an earlier flag-raising, and long, mistakenly, thought it was the photo made famous. James’ book served as the inspiration for the similarly-titled 2006 drama staring Paul Walker.

“Although the Rosenthal image is iconic and significant, to Marines it’s not about the individuals and never has been,” Marine Corps’ commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement. “Simply stated, our fighting spirit is captured in that frame, and it remains a symbol of the tremendous accomplishments of our Corps – what they did together and what they represent remains most important. That doesn’t change.”

The other surviving Marines from the image – Ira Hayes and Rene Gagnon – went on a tour selling war bonds in the United States with Bradley after returning home. Schultz, on the other hand, was seriously injured during the war, and returned to Los Angeles, eventually beginning what would be a 30-year career with the U.S. Postal Service, according to USA Today.

Marine Sgt. Michael Strank, Marine Private First Class Franklin Sousley and Marine Corporal Harlon Block, all also in the photo, were killed on Iwo Jima.

The now-concluded investigation was prompted by two historians, who investigated the image at length in 2014. A nine-person panel was appointed to handle the task, and identification was made based on equipment and uniform style, according to USA Today. Facial recognition technology was also used.