The Marine Corps acknowledged Thursday it had misidentified one of the six men in the iconic 1945 World War II photo of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima.
The investigation solved one mystery but raised another. The Marine Corps investigation identified a man who has never been officially linked to the famous photo: Pvt. 1st Class Harold Schultz, who died in 1995 and went through life without publicly talking about his role.
“Why doesn’t he say anything to anyone,” asked Charles Neimeyer, a Marine Corps historian who was on the panel that investigated the identities of the flag raisers. “That’s the mystery.”
“I think he took his secret to the grave,” Neimeyer said.
The Marine Corps investigation concluded with near certainty that Schultz was one of the Marines raising the flag in the photo.
Marine Private First Class Harold Schultz, second from the left has been identified as the flag raiser instead of John Bradley
The investigation also determined that John Bradley, a Navy corpsman, was not in the photograph taken on Japan's Mount Suribachi by Joe Rosenthal, a photographer for the Associated Press. The Feb. 23, 1945, photo that has been reproduced over seven decades actually depicts the second flag-raising of the day.
The three surviving men identified in the photo, John Bradley, Ira Hayes and Rene Gagnon, went on a tour selling war bonds back in the United States and were hailed as heroes.
Bradley’s son James Bradley and co-author Ron Powers, wrote a best-selling book about the flag raisers, Flags of our Fathers, which was later made 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, Neimeyer said.
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.
Pvt. 1st Class Harold Schultz
“I have a really hard time believing how it wouldn’t have been known to him,” said Matthew Morgan, a retired Marine officer who worked on a Smithsonian Channeldocumentary on the investigation. The filmmakers turned over their evidence to the Marine Corps to examine.
Schultz may have mentioned his role at least once. MacDowell now recalls he said he was one of the flag raisers over dinner in the early 1990s when they were discussing the war in the Pacific.
“Harold, you are a hero,” she said she told him. “Not really. I was a Marine,” he said.
She described him as quiet and self-effacing.
It’s difficult to fathom his desire to keep his role quiet in an era when many Navy SEALs and other servicemen are rushing books into print about their exploits. During World War II many veterans were reluctant to speak about their experiences because it reminded them of the horrors of war.
One of the flag raisers, Ira Hayes, initially asked to remain anonymous, but the Marines were under orders from President Franklin Roosevelt to identify the Marines so they could go on a war bonds tour.
The photo appeared in thousands of newspapers and raised the morale of a nation that had grown weary of the bloody slog in the Pacific.