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Marine Corps Misidentified Man In Iconic Iwo Jima Photo

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A Marine Corps investigation has corrected history. It found that one of the flag raisers on Iwo Jima during World War II was misidentified. After 71 years, it named the late Private First Class Harold Schultz as one of the six men who raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi, an event captured in one of the war's most recognizable photos. NPR's Tom Bowman has our story.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Dezreen MacDowell still remembers that day vividly, even though it was more than 20 years ago. She was talking with her stepfather Harold Schultz at the dinner table. He had loaned her a book about Iwo Jima. She knew he was a veteran of that battle, knew he'd lost friends there, knew he was wounded on Iwo Jima by shrapnel shortly after he turned 19.

DEZREEN MACDOWELL: He mentioned just in passing, you know, that he was one of the flag-raisers on Mount Suribachi. And when he told me that, I said, oh, my god, Harold. You're a hero. And he paused slightly, and he said, no, not really. I was a Marine.

BOWMAN: She said he changed the subject, and they talked about General Patton. He never spoke with her about Iwo Jima again. Schultz died several years later.

It was long assumed that John Bradley was among the flag-raisers. His son wrote a best-selling book about it called "Flags Of Our Fathers," later made into a movie by Clint Eastwood. Here, an actor portrays a man who snapped the photo, Joe Rosenthal.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (As character) Did you get it?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (As character) I don't know. I wish I could've seen their faces.

BOWMAN: It was during the making of that movie that technical experts found through looking at numerous photos and film something unusual.

MATT MORGAN: The equipment that John Bradley was wearing that date matched the equipment worn by the individual in that number two position in the photo.

BOWMAN: That's Matt Morgan, a former Marine officer. He's a producer on a show airing July 3 on the Smithsonian Channel, "The Unknown Flag Raiser Of Iwo Jima."

MORGAN: I think it's really important for us to recognize Harold Schultz today as an individual who never sought honor. And that's such a unique statement on the type of selfless sacrifice that was so common on Iwo.

BOWMAN: Dezreen Macdowell says she's happy for Harold, a quiet, hardworking man who spent his years as a mail-sorter. She says he'd likely be embarrassed by all the attention. Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.