“Our motto is, ‘Until they are home, No man left behind'”
Military.Com has an interesting story, especially if you are or were a Marine. Of course that is figuratively speaking because, “Once a Marine, Always a Marine!” [I don’t mean this comment as a slight in any way toward any non-Marines who fought or died on Iwo Jima and in the other Pacific Campaigns during World War II.] The article is called, U.S. Team Searching for Iwo Jima Marine. This comes at a touching moment. I say that because the last surviving member of the first group of Marines to place our flag on top of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima recently died!
TOKYO – An American team searching for the remains of a Marine combat photographer who filmed the iconic flag-raising on Iwo Jima is honing in on the cave where he was believed to have been killed 62 years ago, officials said Friday.
A lead from a private citizen prompted the search for the remains of Sgt. William H. Genaust, who was killed nine days after filming the flag-raising atop Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi. The seven-member team – the first on the Japanese island in 60 years – is also searching for other Americans killed in the battle, one of the fiercest and most symbolic of World War II.
Genaust, a combat photographer with the 28th Marines, filmed the raising of the flag atop 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 Pacific War and the struggle of the Marines to capture the tiny island…..
On March 4, 1945, Marines were securing the cave, and are believed to have asked Genaust to use his movie camera light to illuminate their way. He volunteered to shine the light in the cave, and when he did he was killed by enemy fire. The cave was secured after a gunfight, and its entrance sealed.
[The first flag was lowered as the second flag was raised.]
There has been a great deal of controversy over the past 60 years over the “Flag Raising” on Iwo Jima. The flag was raised twice. However, the first flag was replaced by the order of a Colonel Chandler Johnson. He was afraid someone would take the flag for a souvenir. He had it taken down and placed in a safe place. The Colonel was later killed in action at Iwo Jima!
That second flag was raised on Mount Suribachi by 5 Marines and a Navy Corpsman [Sgt.Michael Strank, CPL Harlon Block, PFC Ira Hayes, PFC Franklin Sousley, PFC Rene Gagnon, and Navy Corpsman John Bradley]. Sgt. Strank reportedly said, “Colonel Johnson wants this big flag run up high so every son of a bitch on this whole cruddy island can see it.” That second flag raising was filmed by Sergeant Mike Strank and photographed by AP photographer, Joe Rosenthal, who was given the Pulitzer Prize for his photo. Rosenthal died last year. Over the years Rosenthal was accused of staging the second flag raising which he denied. Sgt. William H. Genaust’s film supported Rosenthal. The “Flag Raising over Iwo Jima” became a symbol to the troops and Marines during World War II. It symbolized the Pacific War and the Marines’ battle to capture Iwo Jima.
[The raising of the second flag.]
On June 24, 2007, Silver Star recipient Corporal Charles W. Lindberg passed away at the age of 86. On February 23, 1945, Corporal Lindberg and five other Marines raised the first flag on Mount Suribachi! For many years, Corporal Lindberg’s claim was dismissed and he was even called a liar by many. However, that first flag-raising was captured on film by Sgt. Lou Lowery, a photographer from Leatherneck, the Marine Corps magazine.
When the Marine Memorial was dedicated years later, Lindberg was invited to attend. The names depicted on the Monument were the names of the men who raised the second flag! The Monument was a depiction of the Rosenthal picture! Corporal Lindberg spent much of his later life telling people about the events of that day so long ago with a great deal of pride. He wanted people to know about that first group of six Marines [2nd Lt. Harold Schrier, PlSgt. Ernest I. Thomas, Sgt. Harry 0. Hansen, Corp. Charles W. Lindberg, Pfc. Louis C. Charlo, and Pfc. James R. Michels] who raised the “first flag!” He showed people his copy of the pictures taken by Lowery!
Three of the Marines who raised the original flag with Cpl. Lindberg died on Iwo Jima along with 6,800 other troops. Cpl. Lindberg was the last surviving member of the group of Marines that raised the first flag on Iwo Jima, on February 23, 1945.
It seems only fitting to me that a team is going back to Iwo Jima to recover the remains of Sgt. Genaust. Most of those brave soldiers and Marines killed during the fight to capture Iwo Jima were long ago recovered. However, there are still remains there of some of our men. Though none of the remaining Mia’s are insignificant by any means, the search has primarily focused of Genaust. All the history and symbolism of the flag raising that day on February 23, 1945, in itself, is a monument to all who fought and died there!
If you wish to offer Cpl. Lindberg’s family your condolences, you may sign his guest book at this link. So far there are twenty-three pages of signatures. I think it only fitting that as many veterans as possible see him off on his new journey! You can read about his heroism that day and see the photographs of that original flag raising on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi at Collecting History.
Another very interesting and thorough accounting of the two flags raised over Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi was written from the research collected by PlSgt. William Eugene Bull, “H” Co. 3rd Bn. Bull was wounded at Iwo Jima and received the Purple Heart. The Marine Corps gave Bull a plaque to honor his efforts and research about the true story of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. IWO JIMA, THE REAL STORY OF THE TWO FLAGS RAISED ATOP MT. SURIBACHI is very well written. You really ought to check it out at the link.
I think it is sad so many of our World War II veterans are dying every day at such an alarming rate. With the passing of each of these brave soldiers, a part of history is lost forever. No event underscores that truth more accurately than the death of Cpl. Lindberg. His persistence over the years in promoting the truth about the events at Iwo Jima took nothing away from the men who raised the second flag. It did, however, bring the recognition deserved in some small way to that original group of six Marines who tied a small “54” X 28″ American Flag from the USS Missoula to a metal “pipe” and raised it that day on Iwo Jima! That small flag said to all the other Marines and soldiers who fought so valiantly for Iwo Jima, we have reached the top of the “mountain!” We claim our victory for all our brothers who have died in this battle and we salute them!
As for the controversy, what matters is all men at each flag raising are honored for their deeds that day. The photographers, Lowery at the first raising and Rosenthal, Sgt. William H. Genaust, and Sergeant Mike Strank at the second flag raising all appeared to have done as they claimed. The problem was that there was a military censorship on pictures that required them to be evaluated first before publishing. Though that ban may have been relaxed by then, the soldiers on Iwo Jima didn’t know this! Therefore, when Rosenthal’s picture hit the newspapers, none of the other photos or information had been released yet. Rosenthal never claimed his photograph was of the first or second flag raising. The impact of his photo was so dramatic, that was all anyone cared about or saw at the time. It was later that the controversy came to light.
I loved doing this post. All my life the “Flag Raising over Iwo Jima” was a symbol in my mind of the bravery of our troops and especially our Marines during WWII. I often think it was looking at that Monument that fed my desire as a young girl to join the Corps. It certainly was one of the reasons. Now, all these years later, to read and write about that small part of history makes me feel the same pride I felt every time I put on my uniform and my emblems.
More about some of the men who helped raise the “flags” on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima:
Ira Hayes at the Arlington National Cemetery where Hayes is buried.
About Sgt. William H. Genaust, read Debt of Honor. It chronicles the man behind efforts to find Sgt. Genaust and gives a nice accounting of Sgt. Genaust on Iwo Jima and as a person!
From Wikipedia… Sgt. Strank