For over 70 years, it was believed that Navy corpsman John Bradley was one of the men in arguably the most iconic war photo of all time: the flag raising at Iwo Jima. But recently, historians began questioning if they had correctly identified the men in the picture taken by photographer Joe Rosenthal. In 2014, Eric Krelle and Stephen Foley, of Omaha, Nebr., and Wexford, Ireland, respectively, began studying the photo, eventually coming to the conclusion that Marine Corps Private First Class Franklin Sousley had been misidentified. The man that military authorities believed was Bradley for decades was actually Sousley, which meant that Bradley wasn’t in the photo at all.
So who was the sixth man? Finally, after all this time, he has been identified as Private First Class Harold Schultz.
Schultz was a mortarman with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment. Originally from Detroit, Mich., Schultz was part of the 40-man patrol that climbed Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945. Schultz took part in the second flag raising, the one captured by Rosenthal in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, along with Corporal Harlon Block, Private First Class Rene Gagnon, Private First Class Ira Hayes, Private First Class Franklin Sousley and Sergeant Michael Strank. Schulz died in 1995 and rarely ever talked about his place in the photo. Three weeks after the flag raising, he was seriously injured in battle. After he recovered from his wounds, he went on to have a 30-year career with the United States Postal Service.
Experts were able to identify Schulz through the way he carried his rifle.
Matthew Morgan, a former Marine who worked on a documentary for the Smithsonian Channel about the photo, said that nothing about this revelation takes anything away from John Bradley’s heroism. Bradley was, indeed, one of the Marines who raised the first flag on Mount Suribachi, captured on camera by Marine Corps combat photographer Louis Lowery. He was awarded the Navy Cross for actions taken just two days earlier, when he ran through a barrage of heavy fire to help an injured Marine. He shielded the Marine from gunfire with his own body while he bandaged his wounds and gave him a unit of plasma, then dragged him 30 yards to a safe position. “He’s in every sense a hero,” Morgan said.
In a statement, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Robert Neller, said that it was important for the Marine Corps to ensure their history is correct. “Although the Rosenthal image is iconic and significant, to Marines it’s not about the individuals and never has been,” he said. “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.”