Marines Investigating Possible Historic Snafu With Famous Iwo Jima Photo

U.S. Marines Investigate Possible Mistaken Identity in Iwo Jima Photo 2:07

The Marines have launched an investigation into a potentially historic snafu involving one of the most famous images from World War II: the iconic Iwo Jima flag-raising photo.

The review was ordered after a pair of historians put forth evidence suggesting that the Marines misidentified one of the men immortalized in the photograph by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, Japan. Joe Rosenthal / AP file

The USMC confirmed Tuesday it was " examining information provided by a private organization" related to the photograph Rosenthal took atop Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945.

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

President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself had ordered the Marines to track down the names of the six men depicted in the picture.

They were identified as John Bradley, Harlon Block, Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley and Michael Strank.

All were Marines except Bradley, who was a Navy corpsman — and whose son, James, wrote the best-seling "Flags of Our Fathers" book that Clint Eastwood turned into a movie.

Block, Strank and Sousley died fighting on Iwo Jima. The surviving trio became national heroes.

But historians Eric Krelle, of Omaha, Nebraska, and Stephen Foley, who lives in Ireland, contend the Marine identified as Sousley was actually a private named Harold Henry Schultz, who died in 1995. They also maintain the man identified as Bradley was Sousley.

If true, that means Bradley wasn't in the photo. He died in 1994.

"This is unbelievable," Bradley's son told the Associated Press. "I'm interested in facts and truths, so that's fine, but I don't know what's happening."