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Marine Corps confirms soldiers in 'Flags of Our Fathers' photo misidentified

Posted June 30

U.S. Marine Corps has confirmed it misidentified one of the men in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the flag raising over Iwo Jima, debunking a popular memoir, "Flags of Our Fathers," written by the son of a soldier the Marines no longer believe was in the photo.

The photo first came into question when some amateur historians noticed discrepencies in the uniforms of one of the soldiers pictured and U.S. Navy medic John Bradley.

The Smithsonian Institute, which first turned the findings over to the Marines in January, reported that "a medic would only carry a pistol, they argue, while the figure in the photo is wearing a cartridge belt and has wire cutters hanging from his pocket. Other photos from that same day show that Bradley wore his pants cuffed, while the figure in the photo has uncuffed pants and is also wearing a hat under his helmet, which Bradley did not do."

The man in the photo is actually Pvt. 1st Class Harold Schultz, from Michigan. The New York Times reported that Schultz' family was largely unaware of his role in the historic moment, mostly because Schultz only spoke of it once over dinner. Schultz, who worked as a U.S. Postal Service mail sorter until his death in 1995, never publicly spoke about it.

“My mom was distracted and not listening and Harold said, ‘I was one of the flag raisers,’” his stepdaughter, Dezreen MacDowell, told the Times. “I said, ‘My gosh, Harold, you’re a hero.’ He said, ‘No, I was a Marine.’”

Bradley's son, James, wrote the best-selling book, "Flags of Our Fathers," about the flag-raising and his father's role in the historic moment, which director Clint Eastwood later turned into a movie. The book stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly a year.

When the investigation was first announced in May, James Bradley said it made him doubt his father was at the flag raising depicted in AP photographer Joe Rosenthal's harrowing photo. Before questions were first raised in an article in the Omaha World-Herald, Bradley flatly discounted any question of his father's presence at the flag-raising.

“Listen, I wrote the book based on facts told to me by guys who had actually been there,” Bradley was quoted saying in the World-Herald article. “That’s my research. That’s what I trust.”

John Bradley, who received the Navy Cross for heroism in the 36-day battle of Iwo Jima, died in 1994.

The battle, which was considered essential to the Allied Forces in WWII, claimed an estimated 6,500 U.S. servicemen and roughly 18,000 Japanese soldiers.

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

2 Comments

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  • Roger Connor Jun 30, 11:59 p.m.
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    That's a shame. I was raised to think that all of the US military personnel were collectively "soldiers" and to give them honor for their service. But, if you're just a Marine, that means in today's world you're an obsolete sub-branch of the Navy, who's primary mission is to be polished ornamental "guards" for dignitaries- after all, the Navy had to develop the SEAL teams rather than depend on Marines to get the job done. OTOH, if perhaps, Marines ARE soldiers, then perhaps also their mission can also change and become relevant in modern combat, and really are deserving of the honor and respect due soldiers.

  • Thomas Baker Jun 30, 9:58 p.m.
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    Marines aren't "soldiers." We're Marines.