Bill Ivory is a Vietnam War veteran who served with the 1st Marine Division in 1967-1968 in Da Nang. He volunteers with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and lives in Kensington, Maryland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Somehow, I missed it. I served in the Marine Corps -- even did civilian contract work for it. I remain attuned to any media attention focused on the Corps.
But the May 2016 announcement of a change in the story regarding the iconic 1945 flag-raising on lwo Jima escaped my attention.
Eventually, I caught up. An extensive high-level investigation revealed that Harold Schultz of Detroit stood among the six Marines seen straining toward the cloudy sky in that famous photo.
This got my attention. I too grew up in Detroit. I soon learned he grew up in the Springwells neighborhood. My boyhood was spent on streets just a bit north and east. A maternal grandparent once lived three blocks from Schultz's Boyd Street residence. I later confirmed that, though members of different combat generations, we both swore into the Marine Corps at historic Fort Wayne, a Michigan landmark since the French and Indian Wars. He probably walked to his induction. For me, the ride was quite short.
I decided I needed to know more about Schultz. Not that I rushed into a search. I envisioned all manner of local media, perhaps a news anchor or two, descending in full swarm mode in pursuit of the extended story. Once a vibrant city neighborhood, the area had slipped into decline as manufacturing patterns changed and the suburbs grew. But fortunes were improving. Some urban pioneers had begun refurbishing the old homes, and the commercial strip began to stir. Discovery of a lost hero might provide new luster to a tale about a neighborhood on the rise.
But this never happened. The correction received the quick glance afforded most events, then disappeared in the relentless hum of an ever-churning news cycle.
My journey would take me to Schultz's step-daughter, Dezreen MacDowell, who spoke and texted with me continually over a three-month period as I worked to piece together Schultz's story. With her help, I traced the life of a Marine who quietly made his mark on history.
Born in Detroit on Jan. 28, 1925, Harold Henry Schultz was the second child and only son of Karl and Marie Abramowski Schultz. The couple was originally from Syracuse, New York, where Harold's grandfather, a German immigrant, first settled in America. Michigan, then at the pinnacle of manufacturing hub glory, became a destination for many looking for better jobs and opportunity. Karl found employment with the Ford Motor Company at its River Rouge plant, which loomed just north of Springwells.
"The Rouge," as it was known to any and all in the Detroit area, stood as the pièce de résistance of manufacturing innovation. It was Henry Ford's dream to create the world's largest integrated factory -- integrated in the sense that every element needed to produce a car was immediately available on its then 800-acre footprint. Where Karl worked in this vast complex is unknown. The blast furnace or the open hearth area are possibilities. Perhaps in the glass factory or the power plant. Maybe unloading the ships bearing various raw materials such as iron ore from Michigan's upper peninsula or rubber from the Ford-owned plantation in Brazil. Of course, he could have stood on the production line, the longest and most finely tuned in all of manufacturing.
Karl was a Mason, a member of the Findlater Lodge No. 475, whose hall was located in the heart of Springwells. Although primarily a social fraternity complete with elaborate investiture ceremonies, membership in Freemasonry implies a deep interest in craft and pursuit of excellence through increased understanding of labor efficiency. At Karl's 1956 funeral, final Masonic rites were woven into the church service. So it's reasonable to assume that he was or aspired to be a skilled craftsman.
Ford, also a Mason, never quite achieved his goal of total production integration. But he came close. Despite the onset of the Great Depression, coupled with violent labor-management relations, the Rouge remained a beacon of enterprise, a symbol of technological progress.
Several European ethnic groups populated the neighborhood and lived in relative harmony. The frame houses located so close to the plant proved of ample size, though it was a daily chore to sweep the grime bellowing from the nearby plant off the porch.
Harold grew up here, amid the day-to-day trials and aspirations of many recently arrived immigrants. The homes were sandwiched by commercial strips filled with reminders of the old country. Southwestern High School proved the community linchpin, a common gathering spot and incubator for a newly minted citizen's aspirations.
Harold, like many others, reaped the benefit of the city investing money gained from the auto industry back into what became a first-class public school system. The Michigan legislature made retaining all students through graduation a system-wide goal. Southwestern strove to be a system jewel. Perched on Fort Street, the campus was surrounded by athletic fields, the buildings fitted with state-of-the-art technology. It even sported an indoor swimming pool.
The Great Depression took its toll on the region and, while the Rouge never completely shut down, production at the complex was greatly curtailed. Times were tough. Harold's classmate Stan Lopata, later to catch in the Major League for 13 seasons, remembers being sent off to school in the morning with two sandwiches -- one ketchup, one mustard. World War II would bring vast production needs that would stimulate improved economic conditions. But Harold was now near draft age. He entered into the Marine Corps on Dec. 23,1943.
The most common misconception regarding the Battle of lwo Jima is that the flag-raising signaled the conclusion of the fighting, a capstone to the engagement. Hardly. It occurred on day five in what was to be 31 days of exposed slog over rocky, unforgiving ridges, as troops navigated ground held by a deeply embedded and fully supplied enemy sworn to fight to the death. The horror had only just begun.
Each day saw a dwindling of potential witnesses to the flag-raising. Three of the participants were soon killed in action. Platoon leader Michael Strank, struck by friendly fire on March 1, was first to fall. Early evening the same day saw Harlon Block catch a fatal sniper bullet. Three weeks later, Franklin Sousley received a similar fate. Bill Genaust, who filmed the flag-raising, was captured, his body never recovered.
Capt. Dave Severance, later awarded the Silver Star for his leadership on lwo, described progress along that volcanic rock as an inch-to-inch, yard-to-yard effort. Enemy encounters were close and vicious. H Company pressed on. Harold pressed on, too. His M1 rifle, later identified in the photos as being restrapped due to a broken swivel pin, saw heavy use.
Harold rarely spoke of the lwo experience. But according to a surviving family member, he once -- out of the blue and in an uncharacteristic moment -- mentioned that a good friend positioned a few feet away was blown to bits by rocket fire.
Schultz's exit from the island came March 13. His discharge papers mention scarring across his left palm and stomach, probably from shrapnel. The first stop for initial stabilization was in Guam before transport back to the United States to receive extensive rehabilitation at Great Lakes Naval Hospital in North Chicago.
There, on Oct. 17, 1945, Schultz, now a corporal, was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps.
A New Home
Although just a few hundred miles from his Michigan home, Schultz immediately boarded the train for a three-day ride to Los Angeles. By all reports, he never returned to Detroit.
As a wounded veteran, he received hiring preference to fill civil service positions. In 1946, Harold started in the sorting room at the Los Angeles Main Post Office. It was not unusual for veterans to choose jobs in this department. Many suffered from serious disabilities that precluded walking mail routes. Other hires found comfort in the soothing effects of the sorting process.
Known as the Terminal Annex, the three-story structure had served for many years as a central processing point for all incoming and outgoing Los Angeles mail. Spanish Mission-style architectural flourishes -- identical to details on the nearby Union Train Station -- distracted from the very utilitarian aspects of the work performed inside. Today, the building is a commercial call center, though the customer service lobby remains festooned with Works Progress Administration-generated paintings. On occasion, the space is also used as a movie set.
According to Dezreen, there was a woman named Mary early in Schultz's life, though her last name may be lost to history. They may have met when Harold was training at Camp Pendleton. She grew up in the large Armenian community centered in the Glendale area. They corresponded regularly while he was overseas and made plans to marry. Harold was working diligently to get established at the post office when, tragically, Mary developed a brain tumor and died suddenly. It was a loss that he never really got over. Later in life, Harold would sit in a chair to look at her old letters and weep, Dezreen recalled.
The Terminal Annex became the hub of his life for almost 40 years. For the most part, he worked swing shifts. He never owned a car and didn't have a driver's license. The bus was his chariot. The Annex was the most efficient, high-volume station in the entire postal system. So, there he was grinding it out, much like his father did back in Detroit. At least there wasn't snow to shovel. If any recurring pain from the hand or abdominal wounds remained, he apparently never let on. The letter that accompanied his 35-year service pin lauded not only his steadiness but his "efficient and faithful service."
In the early 1950s, an investigation was launched concerning a bookmaking operation then thriving in the facility. According to Dezreen, Harold was a racetrack guy, a regular at the parimutuel window. But no evidence exists that he participated in street or workplace wagering.
In 1977, a boiler exploded in the mail room, injuring six employees. If Harold was present, he apparently escaped injury. It seems he approached civilian work with the same plodding consistency he displayed on lwo Jima. In both roles, duty was performed until it was time to go home. And then he did.
A natural inclination is to wonder why so little record of Harold Schultz exists. Even prior to the internet, the 20th century was a relentless chronicler of the human journey. How could anyone live so completely untracked, a non-blip on the omnipresent radar of electronic life?
Personal experience provides some perspective on how historical anonymity happens. I volunteer with the Wall of Faces project organized by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Etched in gold on that black marble wall are 58,279 names of combatants who paid the ultimate price between 1958 and 1975.
The project's mission is to provide a photo to accompany a short biography for all whose names are inscribed. While many images were quickly found and inserted into the database, not all the inductees were photographed during recruit training. When contacted, families discovered that photos thought to be in a dresser drawer were not there. Fires break out in homes or storage facilities, even those thought to be highly guarded and secure. Yearbooks thought to be on library shelves or residing in permanent collections go missing. Investigators soon understand that what should be easy to determine is often not. Things just happen.
With the passage of time, family members die, and friends move on. Institutions, even supposed legacy ones, disappear. All of this has happened in the relatively short time since the conclusion of the Vietnam War. The churn of days brooks no archival instinct.
Setting history right
The discovery of Schultz as an uncredited flag-raiser began with an amateur historian in Ireland. That's right: Ireland. Stephen Foley grew up in Ireland's Wexford County and works for a building supply company in Enniscorthy. This was another enticing coincidence, as my great-grandfather was Enniscorthy-born and through marriage became related to the aforementioned family in Springwells.
As a teenager, Foley developed an interest in the World War II campaign in the Pacific. The lwo Jima photo was a particular fascination.
"I don't know why," he told The Omaha World-Herald. "It just always struck a chord in me."
Facing a long convalescence after hernia surgery, Foley took refuge in history books, particularly those focused on lwo Jima. Ample time encouraged detailed inspection, enhanced by recently released photographs on the internet.
With no place to go and little to do other than shift uncomfortably on the couch, Foley commenced a detailed scrutiny of the assembled photos. Gradually, a sense developed that parts of the narrative surrounding the flag-raising were wrong -- completely wrong. The figure identified in the photo as Corpsman John Bradley did not match up with the more clearly identifiable ones of him in other shots. With lots of time on hand, Foley delved deeper.
The pants were the first giveaway. Other photos of Bradley show his pants tightly cuffed and rolled high. Leggings worn for additional protection were clearly visible over his boots. In the famous photo, the man's pants leg hangs loosely to the boot heel.
In the iconic photo, the brim of the figure's utility cap peeks out from under the helmet. Other images of Bradley reveal he is clearly bare-headed under his pith.
The utility belt became the clinching evidence. The figure in the photo wears a belt fitted to an infantryman's needs, complete with M1 rifle ammo pouches and a pair of wire cutters. Another photo taken hours before Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal's famous photo shows Bradley from the back. On his belt is a canteen, a first aid kit and two longer bags filled with field medical supplies.
It was now obvious to Foley that the figure in the famed photo was not John Bradley. After further detailed observation, he concluded that it was actually Pfc. Franklin Sousley, a Kentuckian previously placed in the grouping behind Bradley. He is now moved forward in the positioning to what had been Bradley's spot.
Confused? I certainly was. The mind will struggle to accept any change of a long-perceived wisdom. And if Bradley is not in that photo, then who is the Mystery Marine?
Foley, now healed and poised to return to work, felt his contribution to the search was complete. New eyes were needed in order to move the investigation forward.
Enter another amateur historian, Eric Krelle, a toy designer living in Omaha, Nebraska. As a hobby, he runs a website devoted to all things related to the 5th Marine Division. Formed in 1943, the division's initial organization took place at Camp Pendleton, California, before it embarked to Hawaii to prepare for the island-hopping campaign that would land it on the black sands of lwo Jima.
Familiar with all aspects of the now famed unit, Krelle could lend a more detailed expertise to solving the problem. He had viewed the flag-raising footage many times. As he watched again, his own considerable knowledge of the moment, coupled with Foley's fresh perspective, provided a solid clue.
A string-like tangle appears to sag from the Mystery Marine's helmet. Is it possible this was a scratch on the film negative, Krelle wondered? Close inspection proved there was no such damage.
Krelle's collection of division memorabilia included several helmet models identical to ones used during the campaign. With them in hand, he could identify the blur in the photo as a short strap dangling out from under the pot directly over the wearer's left eye.
He returned to the photo array. Yes, a rifleman, his face always shadowed by the helmet brim and its floating strap, appears in several photos. Now, the wiry guy with the large nose becomes almost ubiquitous. In one shot, he is shown providing perimeter coverage. In another, he gathers rocks to help stabilize the flag. One poignant image shows him crouched, gazing over a cliff at the American fleet lurking beside the now-captured beach.
Krelle went to his online photo collection. He clicked on a captioned photo of the man with the perpetually dangling strap on the left side of the helmet. Shortly after the flag-raising, Rosenthal managed to gather 18 of the men for a group photo with the billowing flag as backdrop. The figure fifth from the right, left arm thrusting his rifle high in the air is now looking straight forward and, yes, the helmet liner strap remains a distracting presence.
Close inspection of the group shot shows Schultz looking straight ahead, his helmet almost jauntily tilted to the right, the strap still dangling above his left eye. It is clear now. The strap intended to secure the liner beneath the helmet is ajar. So, here he is, 26 days into his 20th year and, despite a broad grin creasing his face, he could be mistaken for someone in his 40s.
Rosenthal described surviving the trudge across and up that volcanic pile as akin to a walk through a rainstorm without getting wet. The experience was unimaginably brutal. Those who managed to survive the carnage would never filter their existence in the same way ever again.
The group shot provides conclusive proof that Harold Schultz was the second figure from left in the iconic flag-raising photo.
What are researchers to do? Plod forward. Continue the search. These are the researcher's sacred mantras. As Krelle and Foley proved, a fresh set of eyes can turn the situation around.
That also proved true for me in my search for the rest of Schultz's story.
Beth Braun, a colleague in the Vietnam project, patiently listened to my various searches for Harold's adventures. She decided to explore the case from several angles. One approach was to take a deep dive into Los Angeles real estate transactions. This led to Dezreen. The search began to take a new, more productive shape.
Harold settled in central Los Angeles -- Hollywood, the hub of glitz and glamour for which the city is so renowned. But it was also a neighborhood where people lived. A few are movie stars, of course. Most residents, however, travel the back lots as carpenters, electricians, secretaries, the tradespeople who perform all the methodical tasks of local industry which, in this case, happens to be the movie business.
Some, like Harold, choose the neighborhood for its proximity to other lines of work. If he relied on public transit, bus stops may have prominently figured in his selection of rooms or apartments to rent. In that sense, Hollywood may have provided the perfect transportation coordinate.
By the early 1980s, Harold was residing at 400 Constance Avenue in a single-family unit. Today, the property is divided into a house and single apartment. Here, he shared a porch with Rita Reyes and her daughter. He was working a variety of shifts, so they didn't cross paths much, but Dezreen remembers him as very amiable in a quiet, unassuming way. The neighbors slowly became friends, spending time on the porch together. Harold eventually joined them at their place for regular dinners. Conversations were of a casual, neighborly variety. He liked dogs, had some interests in civil rights issues in a non take-it-to-the-streets way, Dezreen recalled.
I asked her whether conversation ever turned to Vietnam. No, not that she could recall.
Harold didn't drink or smoke. The closest utterance in profanity would be an occasional emphatic "God Bless America." She remembers him on the phone with what she assumed was family in Detroit. But those calls were only occasional and very brief.
A Movie Fan
According to his step-daughter, Harold was a movie fan with a particular affinity for two dark-haired beauties, Hedy Lamarr and Maria Montez. He attended the spectacular Grauman movie houses, as well as the many neighborhood houses dotting the city.
I wonder if perhaps he attended the Dec. 28, 1949, premiere of "Sands of lwo Jima" at the Cathay Circle. Even by Hollywood standards, it was quite the show. Republic Pictures was given free run of Camp Pendleton, including access to aircraft, tanks and Marine troops to craft a rousing tale of battle first on Tarawa Island before climaxing on lwo Jima. The filming went well and, with John Wayne in the starring role, the picture had all the makings of a hit.
Wayne and a host of other Tinseltown celebrities graced the red carpet. Marine-turned-actor Tyrone Power appeared, as did other entertainers of the day, including Red Skelton, Mickey Rooney, Teresa Wright and Janet Leigh. Bleacher seating was erected along San Vicente Boulevard for fans to view the festivities.
With another Marine, Cpl. Rene Gagnon, and Bradley now proven literally out of the iconic flag-raising picture, the possibility can be considered that both men even then sensed how they were indeed somewhere else at that moment. There is a condition referred to as the fog of war. They were heavily involved in one of the most ferocious battles of the 20th century. The mind protects itself in times of enormous stress.
Immense pressure was being exerted by the top brass, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to identify the raisers, return them to the States and send them out to front a public relations campaign designed to inspire Americans to buy war bonds. This was a mission ordered upon them with absolutely no opportunity to reject.
Gagnon and Bradley were present on that mountain. That is an indisputable fact. They were just not in that photo. Later in his career, Wayne starred in a very successful western where the thrust of the story was summed up in one character's remark " ... When the legend becomes the fact, print the legend." When the legend of lwo Jima burgeoned so wide so quickly, any utterance of the whole truth became impossible.
Dezreen described Harold's demeanor as akin to a Trappist monk. Further discussions amplified that observation. His daily wardrobe adhered to a drab, almost clerical form of dress. His "habit " was a simple mix of plain shoes, black trousers and a long-sleeve checkered flannel shirt. In that sense, it was like he never left Michigan.
She recalled Harold making regular pilgrimages to the race track, where perhaps his spirit received nurture. Hollywood Park, which has since been demolished, and Santa Anita were easily accessible destinations. He also hopped the train at Union Station for the trip south to Del Mar in San Diego County. Dezreen on occasion would accompany him on these outings. She remembers his falling into trance-like reverie with the Racing Form, "The Bible of Racing."
Racetracks tolerate, actually cultivate, certain eccentricities. Handicappers of all stripes are often seen randomly plopped in the middle of the concourse and corridors, oblivious to all while jotting, circling and cross-checking their next pick. This was Harold's milieu. Not that he made big waters; more often, the inevitable stroll led to the $2 window. But the focus, the intensity, the passions of experience flowed here and were a central experience in his life.
"Block hollered something. Then we heaved all at once. It happened so quick," Ira Hayes is said to have described the flag-raising scene. He seemed almost dismissive in his recollection of how that 20-foot-long pipe became lodged in the volcanic rock and then swiftly moved upright.
With new information about Schultz's role in the historic event, I wonder how it actually unfolded. Perhaps Sgt. Michael Strank glimpses Harold walking past and signals him to lend a hand. Instinctively, he steps in between Strank and Cpl. Ira Hayes. Sousley is to his right. Schultz places a right hand over, left hand under grip on the pole. After a brief settling moment, a flow begins. Harold surges up, with his rifle swaying away from his right shoulder. At 5-foot-6-inches tall, perhaps 140 pounds, Harold is the smallest of the group, and he is quickly engulfed amidst the bulk of the others, reminiscent of a baseball play when infielders gather under a pop fly and the bigger, taller players secure the catch.
Harold steps back, eyes gaze up to the flag, looks around, checks his right hand, then looks back up the flag before coming around front to lend a stabilizing hand. He drifts away to gather rock.
The entire sequence probably unfolded in just seconds. Six men -- five from rural areas; Harold was the only city kid -- gathered from six different regions of America to perform the simple task. Because of fortuitous natural lighting and the hasty-yet-best-possible framing, it stands now among the most breathtaking 1/400th of a second in the history of photography. It just happened as things sometimes do. And three-quarters of a century later, the particulars of the moment are still being revealed.
Like Hayes said, it happened so quickly. Job completed, all involved quickly dispersed. Stuff needed to be done, primarily staying alive. Rosenthal had his concerns, too. Otherwise, he would have jotted down the names and hometowns of the photo participants. This information would then be passed through channels to the Associated Press marketing department for sale to appropriate hometown newspapers.
If Schultz had been identified then and there, The Detroit Free Press would have almost certainly included his name with the photo on the front page of the Sunday edition. The Des Moines Register would have likely proudly mentioned the participation of Marine Cpl. Harold Keeler, a member of the patrol that took the top of Suribachi. The quiet disappearance of the two Harolds into unreported history would never have happened.
Another factor adding to the confusion is the manner which Schultz became folded into the group. Just prior to the hill ascent, Lt. Harold Schrier requested additional men to bolster his platoon. Schultz was volunteered to this new duty from the mortar squad. It was his first day as part of this particular unit. While certainly present, he was not yet of the group's mind or memory. Bradley, however, was a known comrade -- in fact, a revered figure.
The troops probably regarded the identification of the flag-raisers as silly bureaucratic intrusion on their danger-filled moments. "Let's just get them off our backs," they may have felt. Perhaps inserting someone then in the process of earning the Navy Cross as a possible flag-raiser was a great way to avoid discussion and deflect further intrusions.
Another opportunity to set the matter straight came in 1985, when the 5th Marine Division held a 40th anniversary reunion in San Francisco's Golden State Park. Schultz attended. Although his role was unknown at the time, he was the only remaining living flag-raiser.
Hayes died from a fall in 1955, shortly after he attended the dedication of the Marine Corps Memorial. Keeler and Gagnon both died in 1979.
Rosenthal was at the reunion and autographed a copy of the Gung Ho photo for Schultz. Harold then penned on its back in his downward sloping hand the names of all but one of the 18 men assembled under that billowing flag. Did he actually speak at any length with the Pulitzer-winning photographer? Did Rosenthal experience any changed thoughts or insights regarding that famous click?
Harold was not one to stray very far from home, yet he traveled hundreds of miles north to attend this gathering. Was he hoping to gain closure on what actually transpired? Did opportunity occur and then, on second thought, a choice was made to remain silent?
Perhaps time and further technological advancements will bring fresh opportunity for understanding why a person involved in such an iconic moment would remain publicly silent about it for the rest of his life.
The relationship between Schultz and Rita slowly grew beyond being just neighbors and into a romance. They married at Los Angeles City Hall on July 3, 1989. Their friend, Olga Azias, served as the sole witness. It's not remembered whether a celebratory meal occurred, but maybe it took place at Harold's favorite restaurant, the nearby Phillipe's, legendary in Los Angeles to this day for its signature French dip sandwich.
Harold hadn't been feeling well for some time. There were prostate problems, not to mention long-standing heart issues. Doctor appointments became routine. He still hit the tracks and kept up with the news.
On Jan. 11,1994, John Bradley died in Antigo, Wisconsin. He was 71. His passing made the national news broadcasts, all of which identified him as the last of the living flag-raisers. What the true surviving flag-raiser felt about this news remains unknown. Perhaps he made a comment to Rita, though her daughter never heard him mention it.
Jan. 25, 1995, was Harold's 70th birthday. He celebrated with a quiet cake cutting. It looked like a good day. A photo was taken with his two dogs sitting on his lap.
I couldn't find many other photographs of Harold. He had sat for a portrait just before going overseas. Then, of course, there were the chronicled moments of Feb. 23, 1945. This is the sum photographic total of Harold Henry Schultz known to exist.
On May 16, 1995, Rita discovered him dead in bed of an apparent heart attack.
Perhaps the greatest irony of Harold's life is the site of his final resting place. Hollywood Park was selected because it was located right down the street, renamed Hollywood Forever in 2002. The cemetery sits directly behind Paramount Studios. It can be described as a garish garden filled with elaborate monuments heralding the Type A personalities that roam the film industry.
Buried here are producers, screenwriters, directors and, of course, actors -- many of whom would have competed vigorously for an opportunity to develop, write, helm or star in a screen version of this stoic man’s life. The natural reticence displayed over Schultz's lifetime would, of course, undergo major rewrite. Silent mystic warrior might serve as a manufactured screen persona. You never know. Certainly, there would be an attempt to punch it up, create a lively second and third act. A different, unrecognizable Harold Schultz would emerge.
He would have had none of that. Whether he was simply shy or honoring a then-half-century-old sacred trust remains a point of conjecture. It seems recognition or fame derived from a simple task performed while in the line of duty appalled him.
A small marble bench serves as his grave marker. Carved into it is a mention of his Marine Corps service and award of the Purple Heart. That was apparently more than enough.