Saturday, February 23, 2013

Missing Man, Redux

Marine Sgt (and combat photographer) William Genaust.  On February 23, 1945, he filmed the epic flag-raising on Iwo Jima with a movie camera, while the AP's Joe Rosenthal captured it with a still camera.  Genaust died in combat just a few days later; his body was never recovered. (USMC photo)  

Today marks the 68th anniversary of the Marine Corps flag-raising on Iwo Jima.  Anyone with a passing knowledge of that moment knows some of the details; the AP photographer who captured the epic image (Joe Rosenthal) missed the first flag-raising and was aiming for another shot when someone shouted that Old Glory was going up again.  Rosenthal hurriedly pointed his camera in the direction of the second flag-raising and clicked the shutter without even looking through the view finder.

The result (in the words of a wire service photo editor who among the first to see the image), was "one for the ages," an iconic photograph that is the most reproduced in history.

But Joe Rosenthal wasn't the only combat photographer on Mount Suribachi that day.  Marine Corps Sgt William Genaust used his movie camera to film the event as well.  That sequence has been viewed thousands of times since the battle, but few know the name of the man who was responsible for recording that stirring bit of history.

Like so many Marines and Navy Corpsmen, Genaust didn't survive the battle on Iwo.  Less than two weeks later, Marines asked the photographer to use his camera light to illuminate a tunnel entrance where Japanese troops were believed to be hiding.  Sergeant Genaust was hit by machine gun fire near the mouth of the cave, which later collapsed.  His body was never recovered.

In 2007, a team from the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Center (JPAC), acting on new information, conducted a search of caves in the area where Genaust went missing, but they failed to turn up his remains.
He is one of 250 Americans from the Iwo campaign who remain missing in action.

So, on a day when Marines commemorate a moment that has become synonymous with the Corps, we remember a man who was there to record it, and made the ultimate sacrifice just days later.

Missing Man



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