Photo :Joe Rosenthal/AP/Smithsonian Channel
Premieres Sunday, July 3 at 9 PM ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel
For over 70 years, the iconic flag-raising photograph at Iwo Jima has been one of the most reproduced images in history, inspiring books, movies and the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, DC. In a new one-hour Smithsonian Channel special, the United States Marine Corps will confirm the identity of a previously unknown flag raiser on Iwo Jima. Forensic evidence provided by Smithsonian Channel and production company Lucky 8 TV reveals that unsung hero U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. and Purple Heart recipient Harold Schultz was one of the flag raisers in Joe Rosenthal’s famed Iwo Jima photo taken on February 23, 1945. The full forensic investigation unfolds with never-before-seen evidence in "The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima," premiering Sunday, July 3 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel.
The documentary also reveals that Navy Corpsman John “Doc” Bradley – the focus of the book and film Flags of Our Fathers – is not in the iconic photo, but actually participated in the first and lesser-known flag raising on Iwo Jima.
"The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima" details the journeys of two feature film military technical advisors, two amateur historians, and an Omaha World-Herald reporter who joined forces to press for an official investigation into the iconic photograph in order to correctly identify all servicemen pictured. It also chronicles the story of the month-long battle and the men behind the iconic image, solidifying Pfc. Harold Schultz’s place in history.
“It is a privilege for Smithsonian Channel to play a role in revealing the full truth about one of the most iconic moments in American history,” said David Royle, Executive Vice President of Programming and Production, Smithsonian Channel. “We hope that this remarkable story of detective work and military courage will remind us again of the sacrifice of the Greatest Generation. The discovery of this unknown flag-raiser highlights the modesty of these courageous men – it is extraordinary that Schultz took his secret to the grave.”
Added Lucky 8 TV Co-Founder and Executive Producer Kim Woodard, “It’s an incredible honor for Lucky 8 to partner with the Marine Corps and Smithsonian Channel to share with viewers this story of service and reluctant valor. We are proud to have produced a project that celebrates Pfc. Schultz and the 70,000 servicemen who all played a part in raising that flag on Iwo Jima.”
Questions first arose in 2005 when retired Marine Sgt. Maj. James Dever, while working as an advisor on Clint Eastwood’s film Flags of Our Fathers, spotted inconsistencies in the gear worn by the individual identified as “John Bradley” in the photo. Then, in 2014, while working on the Oscar®-winning film American Sniper, Dever and fellow retired Marine Lt. Col. Matthew Morgan began exploring Dever’s findings further. Several months later, the Omaha World-Herald broke a story highlighting the work of two amateur historians – Eric Krelle of Omaha, Nebraska and Stephen Foley of Ireland – who, independently, had developed a theory regarding the men in the photograph, claiming they had discovered their true identities. Finally, Michael Plaxton, a board-certified forensic media analyst, was brought in to validate the findings that led to the identification of Schultz.
Schultz survived the brutal war in the Pacific, earning a Purple Heart, and later took a job with the U.S. Postal Service in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles. He never shared his story with the public. After his death in 1995, a copy of the famous picture was found among the few belongings he left behind.