In a stunning statement the U.S. Marine Corps revealed that, after intense investigation, one of the men in the iconic WWII Iwo Jima flag raising photograph has been misidentified. The investigation has found "with near certainty" that the man identified as Pharmacist's Mate 2nd Class John Bradley is actually Pfc. Harold Schultz.
Schultz never publicly spoke of his presence in what's probably the most famous photographs ever published, though he admitted to his step-daughter that he was one of the six men. Bradley almost certainly knew he wasn't one of the six. On February 23, 1945, amid the ferocious fighting taking place below, a Marine combat patrol worked its way to the top of Mount Suribachi, its leader carrying an American flag to be raised in clear sight of the troops and ships. Reaching the summit of the mountain, which was honeycombed with Japanese fighting holes and tunnels, the flag was raised. AP combat photographer Joe Rosenthal took a picture of the entire patrol posing around the flag. Corpsman John Bradley was in that photo. The patrol leader then received a message that the flag was too small, that a larger flag was being sent that could be seen from anywhere on the island or in the harbor. The first flag was lowered and Rosenthal, working to reload his camera, hurriedly snapped the photo of second flag-raising in which Schultz participated. Why did neither man correct the record?
I suspect that Harold Schultz simply wanted the war, with all its horrific memories, behind him. On the other hand, even Joe Rosenthal was confused at the time. After he forwarded his photos to the AP and was informed that his photograph was instantly world famous, he assumed it was the photo of the posed first flag-raising. Three of the men in the second photo were already dead by the time Bradley was tracked down and asked if he had participated in the flag-raising photo. He obviously believed the photo in question was the posed group. He was probably on his way back to the states to participate in the war bond drive before he realized his mistake. I have little doubt that he was ordered to keep it to himself for the sake of the success of the bond drive. Later, the photo came to be almost as symbolic of the Corps as the Globe and Anchor itself. I'm sure that Bradley was told his revelation would diminish that symbol.
When Schultz revealed to his step-daughter, Dezreen MacDowell, his role in the photo, she told him he was a hero. His response was "...I was a Marine." John Bradley was a Navy Corpsman. A glance at the list of Medal of Honor recipients of the last century reveals that Corpsmen account for more of the awards than any other group. Corpsmen are heroes to all Marines. We consider them among our own. Bradley must have had his reasons for remaining quiet. Whatever they were, it doesn't change his status as "hero."