The corps began investigating the photograph again in July 2018 after three researchers — Stephen Foley, Dustin Spence and Brent Westemeyer — unearthed new photographs and film footage of the scene atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.
Photographs showed the patterns of Corporal Keller’s fatigues matching those of one of the flag raisers. It also showed that he, like the man raising the flag, was holding a cigarette, Mr. Spence said.
“It’s like a court case,” Mr. Spence said. “You’re putting together evidence. If I was a prosecutor, a lawyer, that’s what I’m presenting. That’s our case.”
The corps said Private Gagnon brought the flag to the top of Mount Suribachi — the second flag raised there that day. He also secured the first flag “for safe keeping,” the corps said.
“Everyone on the island during this historic battle contributed, whether in this photo or not,” the corps said in the statement. “They are all heroes. As an institution, we have a duty to truth and accuracy. Accuracy is crucial in this case. This is an example of the important role historians, media, and eyewitness accounts play in telling the stories of heroic actions our service members play in defense of our nation.”
Kay Maurer, Corporal Keller’s daughter, who lives in Clarence, Iowa, said in an interview on Wednesday night that the corps told her last year that they were looking into the possibility that her father, who died in 1979, was in the picture. The corps told her they had used facial recognition technology and had enlisted the Army’s help to verify the researchers’ findings.
Last month, the corps called again with the news that her father was, in fact, in the photograph, Ms. Maurer said. She said that her father rarely discussed the war, probably because many of his friends died or were injured in it.