The man seen in the Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima photo may have been wrongly identified for nearly a century. It was previously believed to be Navy Corpsman John Bradley, but someone has come forward to dispute some details he noticed.
James Bradley, the son of the man who was thought to be in the photo from Iwo Jima, had possibly been mistaken in believing it was his father in the image. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one who may have been mistaken about the identity of the Navy Corpsman in the sculpture, which painstakingly recreated it in Arlington National Cemetery.
Eric Krelle and his friend Stephen Foley spent months poring over every detail of that day as recorded in photographs and even a video clip recorded of the event. Eric zoomed in on every frame of the clip and every inch of every photo, analyzing the details before coming to the startling conclusion. The man whose name is etched into the statue in Arlington had raised a flag, but it wasn’t John Bradley.
It has been theorized that James Bradley’s memory of his father may have been created around assumptions, drawing on words spoken instead of solid proof. Emotions were high, and it could have altered what John remembered when he told his son. CNN reports that outside sources may have reinforced the false memory until it seemed like a fact in hindsight.
Many who experience traumatic times often alter how they perceive certain moments as a coping mechanism. They feel safer remembering the altered facts and build their reality around them. It’s a common psychological trick that sometimes leads to things like Stockholm Syndrome, where the victim falls in love with their captor, among others.
For more than 70 years, the Marine Corps wrongly identified one of the men in the Iwo Jima flag photo https://t.co/H6aMQrxLZ2
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 23, 2016
James Bradley’s memory of that day might not be an unhealthy one, but amateur historians Eric and Stephen claim it was likely based on false data. He had learned secondhand by others who had been in Iwo Jima that day. John Bradley had raised a flag that day, but it wasn’t the one in the picture.
This was the explanation given by Susan Whitbourne, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“This happens to everybody on some level. Just like real events, (false memories) become implanted somehow, and they start to grow, like a seed planted in soil starts to develop roots and connect to other memories.
“It seems like a pretty simple matter. He was there; he raised a flag; someone else says he raised that flag. It doesn’t amaze me this happened. It’s just unfortunate because you may see people accusing a veteran of lying, when in reality he had a real experience that he misremembered.”
Eric Krelle studied photos of John from that same day and noticed some discrepancies in the way he was dressed as opposed to the man in the famous photo taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. The man in the photo known as Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima is seen with uncuffed pants, a cap under his helmet, and a cartridge belt with ammunition pouches and wire cutters. Photos of John Bradley from that same day showed him with tightly cuffed pants and no cap under his helmet, and Eric claims a Navy Corpsman would have been issued a sidearm instead of an M-1 rifle. He would have had no reason for wire cutters.
History books and Bradley’s own son may have been wrong about the photo of Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, but it doesn’t make John Bradley any less of a hero. He was simply not the one in the photo, according to amateur historians.
[Photo by Joe Rosenthal/AP Images]