San Jose (CA) Mercury-News
March 17, 2004
WWII Veteran Closer to Clearing Name
WAUSAU, Wis. - A World War II veteran who has fought to clear his name since a book cast doubt over his role at Iwo Jima appears to have been in the battle after all, a former Marine officer said.
Retired Marine Col. David Severance, who was instrumental in the 36-day struggle to capture the Japanese island, said photo evidence is convincing that Jerry Ziehme was among the soldiers there.
"It is the only thing he has as far as I am concerned," Severance said Tuesday from his California home.
The book, "Flags of Our Fathers," documents the lives of the six Marines who raised the flag atop Iwo Jima's highest peak on Feb. 23, 1945. The Pulitzer Prize-winning picture was captured by Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer.
But it's not the famous flag-raising picture that upset Ziehme, a retired Navy medic. It's another photo Rosenthal took moments later of 17 cheering, gun-waving troops posed beneath the flag atop Mount Suribachi after four days of fighting.
That picture is published in the book and is labeled the "gung-ho shot." It identifies 16 of the men, none of them as Ziehme, and lists another as unknown. Ziehme (pronounced ZEE-me) has said he's in the photo but was misidentified as another soldier.
In a recent letter to Ziehme, Severance wrote that one of the Marines who raised the flag in the famous picture, Corpsman John "Doc" Bradley of Antigo, Wis., told the Hospital Corps Quarterly in July 1945 that a corpsman named James R. Zima worked with him on Mount Suribachi as a replacement.
Severance said that account has been a major basis for disputing Ziehme's claims that he was the replacement corpsman.
"I must concede that Corpsman John Bradley most likely confused the name 'Zima' with 'Ziehme' because of the similarity of pronunciation, and that Corpsman Gerald Ziehme was the one working with him on Suribachi," Severance wrote.
Severance said other details added to the misunderstanding, including published comments attributed to Ziehme that contain major factual errors about battle details and a lack of a paper trail to Ziehme.
Matthew Martin, an attorney for Random House in New York - which published the book by James Bradley and Ron Powers in 2000 - told one of Ziehme's attorneys last summer there were contradictory claims regarding the identities of soldiers in the gung-ho picture.
Because of that, future printings of the book will only identify the four Marines in the photo who were among the primary subjects of the book.
Ziehme, who has said he goes to veterans meetings and gets cold stares because of the book, called the change unfair to the rest of the men. "Those other guys are deserving because they went through a lot."