YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — James Bradley, the author of Flags of Our Fathers, is convinced that his father John Bradley did raise an American flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi, but not the one captured in the iconic photo that popularized a later flag-raising.
Earlier this week, the Marine Corps announced it was reviewing research provided by amateur historians that raised the possibility that in 1945 the Marines misidentified Navy Corpsman John Bradley as one of the flag-raisers in that photo.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that my father did raise a flag on Iwo Jima,” Bradley told ABC News. Bradley now believes that in 1945 the descriptions his father provided to Navy investigators were about the first flag-raising.
“So it makes sense,” said Bradley. “The bottom line is, this is a story of two flags and there’s four misidentified characters in the two photos.”
He added: “I’m convinced he is in the first flag-raising photo. I’m convinced he’s not in the second photo.”
The Marine Corps said in a statement Tuesday that its review of the iconic photo was prompted by information and research provided by the Smithsonian Channel.
“[Joe] 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, and it is representative of the more than 70,000 U.S. Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Coast Guardsmen that contributed to the battle. We continue to be humbled by the service and sacrifice of all who fought on Iwo Jima,” the statement read.
James Bradley said potential discrepancies were first identified in 2002 when the Marine Corps released previously unreleased photos of the first flag-raising on Iwo Jima.
“Those photos revealed that my father raised the first flag on Iwo Jima,” said Bradley. “They also revealed what he looked like at that time in terms of the details of his uniform” — details that two amateur historians picked up on in 2014, when they raised questions that the Marines had misidentified John Bradley as a participant in the second flag-raising on Mount Suribachi.
The second flag-raising captured by The Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal took place as Marines on the mountain replaced the small flag that had been raised hours earlier.
The photograph quickly became popular and launched a war bond drive, and, years later, inspired the Marine Corp War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, that overlooks Washington.
After the new photos were released in 2002, James Bradley supported claims made by researchers that three of the Marines in the first flag-raising had been misidentified. According to Bradley, when the Marines were contacted about a potential discrepancy “they refused to do anything about it.”
But he did not make a connection that the first and second flag-raisings were connected.
Bradley said he only recently concluded his father was not involved in the second flag-raising after seeing the work of the two amateur historians.
“I focused on it and realized that it’s true, my father raised the first flag, not the second flag on Iwo Jima,” said Bradley.
According to James Bradley, his father not only raised the first flag on Mount Suribachi, but he was also present for the second flag-raising. He was later injured and received the Navy Cross for his heroism. “He did his duty,” said his son. “The point is that the book is called Flags of Our Fathers plural. I didn’t write a book Flags of My Father, I wrote it about all the heroes of Iwo Jima.”
Until he died in 1994, John Bradley never spoke about his experiences on Iwo Jima. James Bradley said his father would always change the subject when he would ask him about what he went through.
“My father never independently said he was in that photo,” said Bradley. “He was lying in a hospital bed with post traumatic stress after one of the worst battles in the history of the United States and the Marines approached him and said here you are in a photo, we’ve determined you’re in a photo. Then he finds himself in the Oval Office and the president is telling him he’s in a photo.”
Bradley believes he knows why his father never spoke about Iwo Jima.
“He was involved in a massacre,” said Bradley. “He was a corpsman. His friends died. He cried in his sleep for four years after he married my mom, actively cried and shook in his sleep. This was horror. This isn’t about photos.
“When I wrote the book Flags of Our Fathers, I was dealing with the official history that was already well established,” he added.
Bradley believes the Marine Corps needs to change the identities of the four individuals in the two photos. “This is not about my dad, it’s about the Marines getting it right,” said Bradley. “Two photos, four guys, need to be changed.”
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