The image of Marines raising the American flag on top of Mount Suribachi in Japan during World War II is one permanently etched into the mind of every Marine.
It’s a symbol of the Corps’ dedication to the country and perseverance against all enemies, in every clime and place.
But on Thursday the Marine Corps announced another correction to the Marines identified in the iconic photo taken by The Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal on Feb. 23, 1945.
Originally, Pfc. Rene A. Gagnon was the Marine identified on the far side of the pole, who had a bit of his helmet showing, the Corps said.
Cpl. Harold P. Keller is now identified as that Marine, the Corps announced.
The conclusion came after a two year investigation by the Marine Corps with assistance from the FBI looking closely at previously private photos shared with them by historians Stephen Foley, Dustin Spence and Brent Westemeyer.
“Without the initiative and contributions of both private historians devoted to preservation of our history and the FBI’s support, the Marine Corps would not have this opportunity to expand on the historical record of the second flag raising on Mount Suribachi,” Marine Corps Combat Development Command said Thursday in a press release.
“Gagnon played a significant role in the flag raising on Mount Suribachi and his role will never be diminished,” the Corps said. “He was directly responsible for getting the larger second flag to the top and returning the first flag for safe keeping.”
Gagnon and Keller survived the war, both dying in 1979, when Gagnon was 54 and Keller was 57.
This is not the first time the Marine Corps reidentified the Marines in the photo.
In 2016, the Corps said that Pfc. Harold Schultz was one of the Marines in the photo, not Navy Corpsman John Bradley.
Identifying who was in the photo was important, the Marine Corps said, but every Marine who participated in the battle was a hero.
“Regardless of who was in the photograph, each and every Marine who set foot on Iwo Jima, or supported the effort from the sea and air around the island is, and always will be, a part of our Corps’ cherished history,” the Corps said.
“The Marine Corps honors the ‘uncommon valor’ that is the hallmark of all Marines who fought in the historic battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. We also honor the sacrifice of every Sailor, Soldier and Coast Guardsman who served there and the courage of their former adversaries."