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October 17, 2019

The Marine Corps on Wednesday confirmed the suspicions of three historians who believed that one of the six men in the famed photo of a U.S. flag being raised over Iwo Jima had been misidentified.

One of the most recognizable photos from World War II, the picture earned Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize. It was snapped during the second flag raising on Mount Suribachi — the first flag was deemed too small, and a larger one was put up a few hours later.

Historians Stephen Foley, Dustin Spence, and Brent Westemeyer studied film footage and pictures taken by soldiers on Iwo Jima, and decided that the person identified in the famous photo as Pfc. Rene Gagnon was actually Cpl. Harold "Pie" Keller, a Purple Heart recipient from Iowa. The Marine Corps told NBC News on Wednesday that investigators from the FBI's Digital Evidence Laboratory have concluded that the historians were correct.

The Marine Corps said in a statement Gagnon was responsible for "returning the first flag for safe keeping," and regardless of who appears 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." Keller's daughter Kay Maurer told NBC News the family was shocked to learn he was in the picture, as her father "never spoke about any of this when we were growing up." Both Keller and Gagnon died in 1979. Catherine Garcia

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