Wexford man's research prompts US probe into iconic image

By dAVID tUCKER

Published 14/05/2016 | 00:00

Stephen Foley with the iconic image.
Stephen Foley with the iconic image.

the US Marine Corps has launched an investigation into one of the most iconic images from the Second World War following research carried out by an amateur historian from Wexford.

Stephen Foley, from Coolcotts Court, challenged the long-accepted identification of one of the six men struggling to raise the American flag on Mount Suribachi following a 36-day battle with the Japanese entrenched on the tiny island of Iwo Jima in February, 1945.

The Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal wasn't able to get the troops' names after capturing the image, but they were later identified as Marines Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, Harlon Block, Michael Strank and Franklin Sousley along with Navy corpsman John Bradley.

However, research carried out by Mr Foley and Eric Krelle, of Omaha, Nebraska, which was published in 2014, suggested that Bradley had been misidentified in Rosenthal's famous photo, for which the photographer won a Pulitzer Prize.

After noticing discrepancies in the photo and its caption, Foley contacted World War Two buff Krelle. The two compiled every available photo taken on Mount Surabachi in the hours before and after Rosenthal captured the evocative image, and examined the flag-raising photo alongside the other pictures taken that day.

Both found differences in the dress and equipment worn by the man identified as Bradley in the picture and those worn by Bradley in other photos taken on Mount Surabachi that same day.

Based on their research, they concluded that the man identified as Bradley was actually Franklin Sousley, who was previously thought to have been standing behind Bradley in the photo. They concluded that another Marine named Harold Schultz was the serviceman long-identified as Sousley.

Last week, following news of an investigation by the Smithsonian TV channel, which had shared its research with the Marine Corps, the US military announced it had begun investigating the claim.

'With the information and research provided by the Smithsonian Channel, who used advanced digital technology to examine battle footage, the Marine Corps decided to review their photo enhancements, film analysis and findings,' the Marine Corps said in a statement.

Mr Foley said he was very surprised at the news which came totally out of blue. He said he was working separately with an another American researcher on a photographic display on who was involved on that fateful day and why.

When Mr Foley's findings were first published in 2014, they were dismissed by the Marine Corps.

Author James Bradley initially claimed he was shocked to hear of the Marine Corps' investigation, but later told The New York Times he had doubts that his father was the one in Rosenthal's famous photo. According to him, John Bradley participated in an earlier flag-raising on Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945, but was not in fact present for the one Rosenthal captured on film.

Mr Foley said he had spoken to James Bradley at length over the weekend.

'He has reiterated to me, his acknowledgement of the fact that he now believes that his father is not in the iconic photo,' said Mr Foley.

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