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Omahan helps rewrite WW II history

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jun 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-23 18:43:27-04

The battle of Iwo Jima, it was one of World War II’s bloodiest battles.  In the midst of the fight, the war’s most iconic photo was snapped and six marines were hailed as heroes.

“I read “Flags of Our Fathers” and I never questioned that and I saw the Clint Eastwood movie, but I never questioned that this history was wrong,” said Omaha World Herald Columnist Matthew Hansen.

The government originally identified the men as Ira Hayes, Michael Strank, Rene Gagnon, Harlon Block, Franklin Sousley and John Bradley. 

Through Eric Krelle’s online WWII blog, Steven Foley of Ireland put the bug in Krelle’s ear that they should look into whether or not the six men in the famous photo had been properly identified. 

The Omahan and amateur historian spent hours looking at video and still photos from that day in 1945.

Krelle was convinced John Bradley, the most famous flag raiser who had a book and Hollywood movie based off his life was not even in the photo.  But, who was the sixth man if it wasn’t Bradley?

Krelle identified the mystery marine as Harold Schultz, he had to tell someone about his discovery. 

“I figured I was going to stay there ten or fifteen minutes to be polite and then shake his hand and leave,” said Hansen.

Krelle called World Herald columnist Matthew Hansen with the news.  Hansen says he was hesitant at first. 

“By the time we left I knew we had a potentially huge story and he was on to something,” said Hansen.

In November of 2014, after Hansen published an article about Krelle's findings, the story caught the attention of Lt. Col. Matthew Morgan, who is a marine officer turned Hollywood military advisor.

The Smithsonian Channel wanted to produce a special.  They hired a forensic analyst to recheck Krelle and Foley’s original research that Hansen wrote about in 2014. 

“Every effort that has ever been made or put forth before the Marine Corps has been turned away.  They always say nope this is our story, we’re sticking to it,” said Krelle.

This time the Marine Corps began investigating the claim.  On Thursday, the marines acknowledged that they had misidentified one of the six men photographed.

“Just thinking about Harold Schultz and a man history never recognized and now he is being put before the public.  This guy was part of an amazing American event,” said Krelle. 

According to Hansen, Schultz never told anyone it was him and not Bradley in the photo.  When he died his step-daughter found a picture he had stored for decades showing him atop Mt. Suribachi that day in 1945. 

“There is this completely unknown guy who sadly after his death gets a place in American history that he never had,” said Hansen. 

The Smithsonian Channel special revealing the identity of the correct Iwo Jima flag raiser featuring Krelle and Hansen premieres on July 3.