Bob Bolus, 64, a businessman in Scranton, Pa., became intrigued by Sgt. William H. Genaust after reading a Parade magazine story about him two years ago. Bolus spent thousands of dollars of his own money to put together a team, including an archivist, forensic anthropologist, geologist and surveyor, to pinpoint Genaust's remains.
Leaving no man behind
TOKYO » A U.S. search team on Iwo Jima is slashing its way through thick, thorny brush to find a cave where the Marine combat photographer who filmed the iconic World War II flag-raising is believed to have been killed by machine gunfire.
It's the first American search of the remote Japanese island in 60 years. The team is seeking the remains of Sgt. William H. Genaust and other Marines who died in the battle for Iwo Jima, a turning point in the war with Japan.
"Our motto is 'until they are home,' " said Lt. Col. Mark Brown of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which is headquartered on Hickam Air Force Base on Oahu. " 'No man left behind' is a promise made to every individual who raises his hand."
Genaust, a combat photographer with the 28th Marines, filmed the raising of the flag atop Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945. He stood just feet away from AP photographer Joe Rosenthal, whose photograph of the moment won a Pulitzer Prize and came to symbolize the war in the Pacific and the struggle of the Marines to capture Iwo Jima.
Genaust died nine days later when he was hit by machine-gun fire as he was helping fellow Marines secure a cave, said Johnnie Webb, a civilian official with JPAC. He was 38.
Sgt. Willam H. Genaust, a combat photographer, used a movie camera to film the raising of the flag atop Mount Suribachi, standing just feet away from AP photographer Joe Rosenthal, who took this iconic photograph.
A tip from a civilian led to the search for Genaust's remains. The seven-member JPAC team is also looking for "as many other American servicemen as they can find," Brown said.
Some 250 U.S. troops are still missing from the Iwo Jima campaign, Brown said. Many were lost at sea, meaning the chances of recovering their remains are slim. But many died in caves or were buried by explosions, and Brown said the military was optimistic about finding Genaust and other servicemen.
The last JPAC team to search Iwo Jima recovered the remains of most of the American dead in 1948.
The Marines officially took Iwo Jima on March 26, 1945, after 31-day battle that pitted some 100,000 U.S. troops against 21,200 Japanese. Some 6,821 Americans were killed; only 1,033 Japanese survived.
"We are looking at several caves," Brown said. "We have maps dating back to World War II and even GPS locations. So far, everything seems to be where it should be."
Bob Bolus, the Scranton, Pa., businessman who provided the lead in the search, said he became intrigued by Genaust after reading a Parade magazine story about him. Spending thousands of dollars of his own money, Bolus put together a team of experts, including an archivist, forensic anthropologist, geologist and surveyor, that was able to pinpoint where Genaust's remains were likely to be found.
Bolus, 64, began lobbying the military to search for the missing Marine.
"How do we leave an American?" he said by telephone. "How do we ignore him and leave him in a cave along with other military personnel who are MIA on the island also? He gave us a patriotic symbol that we see to this day. It's important."
Bolus, who said he visited Iwo Jima last year and met the grandson of Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the Japanese commander on Iwo Jima, said he's confident Genaust will be found.
Accounts vary, but Genaust was believed to have been killed in or near a cave on Hill 362A.
On March 4, 1945, Marines were securing the cave, and are believed to have asked Genaust to use his movie camera to light their way. He volunteered to shine the light in the cave and was killed by enemy fire. The cave was secured after a gunfight, and its entrance sealed.
Brown, who has been receiving daily progress reports since the team arrived on Iwo Jima on June 17, said the search has been difficult because the area is overgrown with thorny brush.
"The team is cutting its way through," he said. Heavy equipment may be sent in if the search looks promising.
Though often overlooked, Genaust played a key role on the day the flag was raised.
As a combat photographer, Genaust was trained to use a firearm, and he and another Marine protected the AP photographer as they climbed 546-foot Mount Suribachi.
Genaust's footage also helped prove that the raising -- the second one that day -- was not staged, as some later claimed. He got no credit for his footage, however, in accordance with Marine Corps policy.
In 1995, a bronze plaque was put atop Suribachi to honor Genaust, who before coming ashore on Iwo Jima fought and was wounded in the battle on the Pacific island of Saipan. An actor portraying him appears in the Clint Eastwood movie "Flags of Our Fathers."
Some 88,000 U.S. service members are listed as missing from World War II, and JPAC conducts searches throughout the world to find them.
Japan's government and military are helping with the search on Iwo Jima, which this month was officially renamed Iwo To -- the island's name before the war.
Japan sent its first search parties to the island in 1952 and others have followed every year since Iwo Jima was returned to Japanese control in 1968. They have recovered sets of 8,595 remains, Health Ministry official Kohei Niizu said.