Marines reopen investigation into famous WWII photograph

Has any historic photograph ever received the ongoing inspection that this one has?


AP photographer Joe Rosenthal didn’t get the names of the guys who re-enacted the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima in 1945. There was a war going on and some of the men pictured were dead not long after he took the photograph.

It was left to the ages to figure out and, for the most part, the ages did a pretty good job crediting John Bradley, Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, Harlon Block, Michael Strank and Franklin Sousley for their display that buoyed a nation that was sick of the war and its thousands of casualties.

For a couple of years now, an Omaha history buff — Eric Kreele — has challenged the undisputed truth of the identities.

It started when he looked at some other pictures Rosenthal took that day, pictures of John Bradley, the Navy corpsman who is second from the right.

He said it’s not Bradley.

In other photos, Bradley had different pants, different headgear and a different belt. The Omaha World Herald showed the photos in its 2014 investigation.

U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, fifth division, cheer and hold up their rifles after raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, a volcanic Japanese island, on Feb. 23, 1945 during World War II. Joe Rosenthal | AP

Bradley’s son wrote “Flags of Our Fathers.” It was a bestseller in 2000 and a hit movie directed by Clint Eastwood.

The elder Bradley died in 1994 and never said it wasn’t him in the picture.

If it’s not Bradley, who is standing in Bradley’s spot?

Pfc. Franklin Sousley.

Who’s standing in Sousley’s spot?

A few historians think it’s Henry Schultz, a Detroit native. He died in 1995.

Having declared the case closed in 2014, the Marines announced on Monday that the service is reopening the investigation into the identity of the flag raisers.

“Rosenthal’s photo captured a single moment in the 36-day battle during which more than 6,500 US servicemen made the ultimate sacrifice for our Nation and it is representative of the more than 70,000 US Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Coast Guardsmen that took part in the battle. We are humbled by the service and sacrifice of all who fought on Iwo Jima,” the statement announcing the investigation said.