| Terry Johnson, American Media Institute

Irish hardware store worker corrects record on Iwo Jima photo

An Irish hardware store worker and an avid amateur historian were instrumental in revealing that the Marine Corps had named the wrong man in the iconic World War II image of the American flag being raised on Iwo Jima.

The Marine Corps finally confirmed Thursday that one of the six soldiers raising the flag on top of Mount Suribachi was misidentified.

John Bradley, a Navy corpsman from Wisconsin, was not one of those captured in the image snapped by The Associated Press lensman Joe Rosenthal.

Instead, following an investigation that began with sleuthing by Stephen Foley of Wexford, Ireland, and U.S. amateur historian Eric Krelle, the Marines confirmed the man in the picture is Pvt. 1st Class Harold Schulz, of Detroit. Schultz died in 1995, aged 70.

“Our history is important to us, and we have a responsibility to ensure it's right," Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement Thursday.

But Neller added, “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 three surviving men identified as being in the image, including Bradley, Ira Hayes and Rene Gagnon, went on a tour selling war bonds back in the United States. They were hailed as heroes.

Bradley’s son, with co-author Ron Powers, wrote a best-selling book, "Flags of our Fathers," about his father, and the other men, later made into a movie by Clint Eastwood. Bradley acknowledged last month his father was not in the photograph.

The photograph, first published in 1945, and republished since, was the second of two similar ones taken that February day. It is likely Bradly was pictured in the first.

Doubts were first raised publicly about the identity of one of the flag raisers in November 2014, in an article published in the Omaha World-Herald.

The article was based on the work of Foley and Krelle, who, together in long- distance partnership, concluded Bradley was identified. And the pair, basing their conclusions on their near obsessive study of published images from the day, even correctly identified Schultz. 

In a December 2014 article in his local paper, the Gorey Guardian, Foley, who had a longtime interest in the history of the Marines, turned super sleuth while recovering from a hernia operation that kept him from his work in a hardware store.

He poured over images, comparing details such as helmets, belts, field dressings, and the uniforms, and came to his conclusion. He worked remotely with Krelle.

At the time, it appeared to Foley there was little enthusiasm within the Marine Corps to investigate their findings, which they passed on.

“The Marine Corps say they are not changing the names,” he told the World-Herald, “but I am still working on this. It cannot be denied — what's obvious is obvious.'

But the Smithsonian Institute did take an interest in the work of the two amateur historians, and began to investigate, the results of which can be seen in a July 3 special on the Smithsonian channel.

More than a year after the article appeared, the Marine Corps agreed to investigate the claim, appointing a nine-person panel headed by Jan Huly, a retired Marine Corps three-star general.

Investigators were able to identify the way the Marines wore their equipment and uniforms in the photo. They then compared these to photos taken of the unit on the same day. They identified Schultz.

"Why doesn't he say anything to anyone," Charles Neimeyer, a Marine Corps historian who was on the investigation panel, said of Schultz. "That's the mystery."

"I think he took his secret to the grave," Neimeyer told USA Today.