Category Archives: World War II

A Lost Soul From WWII Comes Home – Part 1


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On a sweltering, humid day, the family poses in front of Breakneck Ridge after the second of four memorial services. The one with the belly is me. Leyte, Philippines. July 22, 2015.
“Perhaps somewhere on Leyte, while surrounded by the US Army, Uncle Suetaro glimpsed up at the night sky through the dense palm fronds. Rain fell upon his unwashed face. Perhaps he was wounded and if so, perhaps shivering from a raging infection. If he lived until morning, he found each dawn worse than the dawn before. He was starving.
He knew inside his heart he was not evil… But if I am not evil, why am I here dying?

A Soul Lost in a Faraway Jungle, Masako and Spam Musubi

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Cousins Namie and Tomiko negotiate an incline on Leyte.  They are all in their late 70’s.

A Pilgrimage to Leyte Begins

At 33,000 feet, the Philippine Airline’s pressurized cabin was cool and comfortable.  An hour into our three and a half hour flight to Tacloban, Leyte, it began to fill with the wonderful, pleasant scent of lunch.

The attractive Filipina flight attendant handed us our meals.  As I took the gold foil cover off the chicken lunch, I turned to my cousin Kiyoshi seated next to me in 46H on my left and said, “末太郎さん、腹へっていたでしょう、” or “Uncle Suetaro must have been so hungry.”

My eyes began to tear up once again.  It would happen many times during our Hiroshima family’s pilgrimage to Leyte…

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The wife of Tacloban City’s Mayor, the former actress Cristina Gonzales, was kind enough to greet our group.

In the epilogue of my story, “A Soul Lost in a Faraway Jungle”, my 81 year old cousin Masako climbed a long flight of stone stairs to the top of a military shrine in Hiroshima.  She said our deceased Uncle Suetaro called out to her.  With that, we knew we would be headed to Leyte.  It was just a question of when.

“When” was last week.  July 19, 2015.

My four Hiroshima cousins and Masako’s daughter went on a six-day/five-night pilgrimage to Leyte, spearheaded by the author of the book “Eternal 41st”, Mr. Yusuke Ota.  With us was another lady whose uncle was verified as being killed on Leyte near the end.  Also with us was a news reporter from a Hiroshima newspaper.

We went to honor not just our uncle who was killed as a Japanese soldier but for all souls who never returned from that island during WWII.

I also took with me a letter as well as photographs from blogger gpcox of PacificParatrooper to be read to her father “Smitty”.  Smitty was a paratrooper with the US 11th Airborne and fought for his own life on Leyte against the Imperial Japanese Army – of which my uncle was one.  My uncle arrived on Leyte October 26, 1945; Smitty on November 18, 1945.  Smitty returned home; my Uncle Suetaro did not.

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The memorial tabletop, Japanese-style. You can see Smitty’s photos on the right alongside the photos of my Uncle Suetaro. Perhaps their paths crossed but ultimately, their sacrifices 70 years ago led to the US/Japan harmony we have today. Indeed, I like to think they were both victorious.

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Leyte

But first, a quick look at Leyte and its people:

A little Filipina girl runs alongside us as we pass through her small village:

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Filipina children we encountered climbing Hill 522 near the invasion beaches of 1944.
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A typical transit bus, taken through our van’s window.
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Local people almost always watched our memorial services including this young mother and daughter. She is clutching some of the food we distributed after the services.
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Vegetable peddler, Tacloban City.
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Curious locals watching us near Limon River which turned blood red during the battle in 1944 per interviews.
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Family selling bananas at street side. Bananas grow everywhere on Leyte.

The entire island is in various stages of reconstruction after it was devastated by Typhoon Yolanda less than two years ago.  Death toll estimates range from 6,000 to 10,000 people.

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Tacloban City and the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.

Mr. Ota is very active in the noble Tacloban City/Fukuyama Sister City relations.  If you would like to contribute to their recovery efforts, please contact Mr. Ota directly through his blog:

http://kkochan.com/

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The pilgrimage continues in Part 2… Please click here.

Old Man Jack-ism #9 – Respect


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My supercharged Grabber Orange Mustang lived outside 24/7 for her first five years. Old Man Jack’s driveway is to the very left; he would on occasion call me over to his garage to chat.

I was out front one morning, enjoying a gorgeous holiday weekend.  While pointing in my general direction, Old Man Jack said to me from across the street, “Koji, she needs to come in at night.”  My car was in between Jack and me.  He loved my car…almost as much as his F4U Corsair.

Why would he tell me to put my Grabber Orange Mustang into the garage?  He knows it’s parked outside 24/7 because the aggravating ex took away my garage space without saying a word.

“Say what, Jack?” asked I…

I was humbled shortly thereafter by this exceptional and aging WWII combat vet who went to war as a young boy.

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Indeed, I had to park my supercharged, car show winning Grabber Orange Mustang at curbside 24/7.  Blistering sun, rain, ashes from wildfires, toxic sea gull poop and dog pee on my chrome wheels, I tell ya.  The sea gull poop was the worst: unless you got if off before the desert-like sun microwaved it, it would leave the vinyl graphics underneath stained.  Crap.

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Sea gull bomb.
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Aftermath of sea gull bomb – the stain.

But I had to park it outside on the street, as I mentioned, as my darned ex decided to secretly take over my man-cave just months before I got the Mustang GT.

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After the divorce and after throwing a lot of the stuff she didn’t take, this is what the garage looked like. The illegally built room took up about 75% of the space. She even had a door, lights and curtains installed. Definitely no room for a car… Well, maybe a Smart car…but that isn’t a car. 🙂

If you thought Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack, the ex’s takeover of my man-cave was a blitzkrieg.  Let’s just say it was a helluva shock to come home from work one day to find an illegal alien well on his way into putting up walls in the garage.  She was building a “massage room”.  Well, in the end, it was used for much more, unfortunately.

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The cleared out space after I paid my AMERICAN citizen buddy to tear it down and haul it away. My car now has a home.  Notice the door and the window with curtains she had installed. It’s going to cost a pretty penny to have them torn out and filled in. Oh… Look at the bottom right corner… Six feet of my driveway is missing. That is another ex story.

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But back to Old Man Jack telling me that “she needs to come in at night”…

“Jack, I can’t put the car in the garage.  You know that,” I said.

“No, not the car, you dumb shit.  The flag!” he said with his boyish trademark grin and with great fondness.

“Huh?  The flag?” I asked.

“Shit, didn’t they teach you anything in school?  You gotta put a light on her if she’s staying out at night,” he said.

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Old Man Jack with his happy face on and me. He would pass away about a year later.

I then realized he had pointed to the flag behind me and not my car.  Duh.  I had put the red, white and blue out for the holidays as always and had simply left it out – and yes, for convenience.  He must have seen it left out the night before.  But then again, he must have been biting his tongue for years as I had left it out before.

As Popeye, the Sailor Man would say, “How embarrassinks.”

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Well, Old Man Jack was right; there has to be a light shining on the flag at night.  And yes, I had learned that exact flag etiquette as a youngster in school but just plain forgot with time.  Heck, me and this other kid had the honor to take down the school’s flag at the end of the day on a regular basis then properly fold her up while in the 6th grade.  I can still hear the clamps clanking on the metal flag pole as we lowered her.

Anyways, I had remembered that story with today being Memorial Day.  I had the flag out in reverence to our fallen.  I even caught the tail end of a flight of four WWII T-6 Texans just north of us in a missing man formation.

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It is now dark outside and yes, I brought her in.  Can’t upset Old Man Jack, you know.

But it ate my heart out to see it draped over his casket just about three years later.

I was alone with Old Man Jack during visitation.  It was good as I was able to say good-bye in private... The mortuary didn't invest in good quality Kleenex, though.

Thanks for reading and revere our fallen.

Old Man Jack-ism #8


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After recovering from a flood of memories, Old Man Jack stares at the other girl in his life: the F4U Corsair. Planes of Fame, March 3, 2003. Copyright Koji D. Kanemoto.

“….The son-of-a-bitch had no legs…” said Old Man Jack from his wife’s blue wheelchair.  His arms were making like windmills.  Well, windmills as fast as his 88 year old arms could go.  He had a comical yet strained look on his face, his bushy white eyebrows still prominent.

But you could see the pain behind those eyes…and in his deadened voice.

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Several months have passed since I visited with Old Man Jack at his grave.  With Memorial Day around the corner, May 17th was a beautiful day to visit him.  A recent rainstorm had just passed and the blue skies were painted with thin, wispy clouds.

I could see no one had stopped by since my last visit; at least no one that left flowers for his wife Carol and him.  The hole for flowers was covered up and grass had crept up onto his gravestone.

I had brought along something for Jack this time; something I thought he would enjoy.  So after cleaning up his resting place, it was placed atop his gravestone – his beloved F4U Corsair:

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He loved the F4U Corsair. He reflected on seeing the entire patrol return to base at wave top, do a victory roll then peel off with a tear in his eyes.

I’m hoping he was beaming.  He couldn’t possibly be happier, being with the two most beautiful ladies in his life.

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But back to his story.

A few months before he was taken away from his home, we had been sitting in his cluttered garage, talking about this and that; I just can’t recall what.  But something in our talk triggered an ugly war flashback from his tormented and mightily buried subconscious.  By that day in 2011, I could tell when he was enduring one, having sat in his garage with him for ten years.

He began as he did before.  He would suddenly stop then gaze down at his hands for a couple of seconds.  His left ring finger would begin to rhythmically pick under his right thumbnail.  His white, bushy eyebrows now made thin with time would partly obscure his eyes from me when he lowered his head.

While I am unable to recall his exact words, he slowly allowed an ugly event to surface:

Old Man Jack began, “We were ordered to go on a patrol.  We were issued rifles and hoped to God we wouldn’t come across any Japs,” he said in a remorseful way.¹  “Then, we came to these rice paddies… We could see hills around us… but that also meant the Japs could see us.”²

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Perhaps it was this rice paddy in Okinawa. Archival image.
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…Or this rice paddy. US Army photo.

“We just followed the guy in front of us like cattle,” he said.  “We were making it through the rice paddies when a couple of shells came in.  Man, I hit the ground real quick.

Then all of a sudden, all hell broke loose.  Rounds were coming in like crazy all around me.  They had this area zeroed in real good.”

He continued.  “I ain’t ashamed to say it.  I was scared real bad.  Then we all started to scram.  I got up and started to run.  I dumped my rifle and ran like crazy.”   While in that blue wheelchair that belonged to his beloved wife Carol, Old Man Jack made like he was running, much like Popeye in this clip:

He then took his gaze away from his hands.  “Then I saw this guy flying through the air with his arms making like he was still running… but the son-of-a-bitch had no legs!”  He pointed his finger and made an arc like a rainbow, then swung his arms like a windmill.  Apparently, an enemy round had hit his comrade, severing his upper torso from his legs then throwing him into the air.  Although the comrade met a violent end, Old Man Jack was describing how he saw his arms flailing.

He stopped.  His eyes returned to his hands.  I still cannot imagine the torment he was enduring, even after 70 years.

I never will.  I just hope he didn’t take it to his grave with him.

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While Old Man Jack was fortunate to have survived combat unlike my Uncle Suetaro or Sgt. Bill Genaust, it was but a physical survival.

Combat tormented him forever.

Let us remember this Memorial Day our fellow Americans who perished so young for the sake of their families and friends, no matter which conflict… and also firmly support those in uniform as I write.  They, too, are being forgotten by many, even as they fight – and die – for us in godforsaken faraway places.

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My friend’s first husband, Sgt. Robert W. Harsock, US Army, Viet Nam, posthumously bestowed the Medal of Honor. National Medal of Honor Memorial, Riverside National Cemetery. Copyright Koji D. Kanemoto

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NOTES:

1. I would like to remind my readers that Old Man Jack had no hatred to me or my family when he uttered the word “Jap”.  He is digressing to a most vile period in his life in which he could be killed the very next moment.  If you are offended, it is suggested you participate in an all-out war; perhaps you will understand why.

2. At his funeral, the minister read off the islands he fought on.  Based solely on his description of the large rice paddy and hills combined with what the minister said, I firmly believe this was Okinawa 1945.  Oddly, while Old Man Jack mentioned Guadalcanal, Rabaul, Bougainville and Green Island, he never mentioned Okinawa.

The Magic of Churchill’s Speeches


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Sir Winston Churchill and his cigar. From http://www.express.co.uk/news/

While avoiding any political endorsement of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, he did lead England to victory over Hitler’s Germany during World War II.

It was a grave time for England¹.  While I am certainly not a military historian, his famous speeches – with his distinctive speech and delivery which helped keep the British morale bolstered  – always intrigued me.  They were always stirring.  Why is that, I thought.

As an example, an excerpt of one of his more famous WWII speeches follows, broadcast to the free world at the end of the Battle of Britain¹.  He pays homage to the brave, young RAF pilots who flew countless of sorties in defense of their homeland against numerically superior Nazi warplanes.  The radio broadcast recording is set to start moments before his famous words of Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few:

But there IS something in his speeches that captivated the common English layman of war-ravaged England…and me.  He captured the populace with his radio broadcasts, from chimney sweeps to the most learned elite.  This in a time when Nazi Germany laid siege to the island nation, eventually bombing London itself (which was part of a key tactical blunder²).

Nevertheless, his tone is generally reserved during his speeches; yet, it is stirring.  It certainly is not animated as that of his psychotic foe, Hitler; it is said Churchill would merely sit behind the microphone on a desk while his faithful cigar burned at his side while broadcasting his speech.  (Hitler is one of the most animated, dynamic speakers I have watched even though he was inhuman.)

An archival image of Sir Winston Churchill broadcasting to the English population, 1942.

Then, a couple of years ago, I had stumbled across an article about his speeches.  I think I was researching in support of one of my son’s school projects when I came across it.  But it finally laid bare his secret to me for his successful speeches: it was the simplicity of his words.

His speeches not only excluded complex words, like perpendicularity or discombobulation for the most part, his ultimate secret was the number of syllables in a word.

It was rare he used any word with more than three syllables.  Yes, three syllables.  Amazing, isn’t it?

With his cigar going, Sir Winston Churchill visits Hitler’s destroyed Chancellery in July 1945. Archival photograph.

In an excerpt from his speech on June 4, 1940 below, you can see his perfect choice of words.  There are only three words with more than three syllables (bold italics).  Simplicity was his preference and key to his success:

“I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

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Sir Winston Churchill, with cigar going, visits British troops in France six days after D-Day. Archival photo.

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Anyways, I just thought it was fascinating to finally learn one key to Sir Winston Churchill’s successful and historic speeches.  After he carried England through the war, I am sad he was voted out as Prime Minister in Britain’s first elections after Germany’s surrender.  He passed away in 1965 at the age of 90.

But one thing is for certain.  My Little Cake Boss Diva has instinctively mastered Churchill’s speech skills.

“Papa…  Why do you do it that way?  Do it this way!”

See?  All three syllables or less…  She must be captivating although she is a bit more animated than Churchill was.

Someone help me.

By the way, my text above has twelve words that have more than three syllables.  🙂

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For a collection of Sir Winston Churchill’s speeches, please click here.

NOTES:

1.  It is but my belief that England’s situation in 1939 while dire was not as gloomy as history presents it to be.  Nevertheless, it was a most dangerous time to be a Londoner.

2.  Perhaps in the future, I will write about this “blunder” by Hitler and most of all, Goering.  One unbelievable tactical error was ordering his Me-109’s – arguably a better fighter plane than the British Spitfire – to fly alongside his bombers in a defensive move.

A Humble Hero on Iwo Jima


While on the sands of Iwo Jima last month for the 70th Anniversary, this former P-51 fighter pilot (Jerry Yellin) spoke so eloquently and humbly about WWII that it brought tears to my eyes.

Now 91 years old, he flew off Iwo Jima in the very last mission of WWII, escorting B-29s on their bombing mission.  During this very last mission, his wingman was killed.

Yet, he talks nobly about the nightmares of war and about his own family which now includes a Japanese daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

I hope you will watch and listen to this gentleman.

A cover’s tip to Mustang_USMC.

Iwo Jima Flag(s) Raising – the Movie (Part 4)


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The Marine Memorial atop Mt. Suribachi (date unknown). The inset is a close up of a plaque honoring Sgt. Genaust. It says, “Sgt. William Homer Genaust, Marine Combat Cameraman, Shot Historic Movie of Flag Raising, Won Bronze Star, Killed in Action, Mar. 4, 1945. Age 38”. His body lays hidden at the northern tip of the island, seen beyond the Memorial.  I am unaware of the current status of this memorial. The Japanese military has closed its base on Iwo Jima; it is now largely uninhabited except for those lost souls.

After filming the second flag raising, Sgt. Genaust did some more filming of the battle.  A few reels focused on litter bearers carrying young deceased Marines.  Some footage was shot of a Navy Corpsman rendering aid to wounded Marines.  But the most foreboding footage depicted the cave-by-cave elimination of Japanese soldiers.  All in all, he shot 23 Kodachrome rolls, each about four minutes in length.

Roll 23 was shot on March 2, 1945.  In a documentary, the roll begins with Genaust holding the paper identifying it as #23.  But amongst all the fear, violence and carnage, he is still wearing his wedding band.

In this roll, there was some brief footage taken of a Corpsman rendering aid to a wounded Japanese soldier. It would be his last roll.  He would not be picking up a camera again.

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It apparently rained for a couple of days after shooting roll #23.  On March 4, 1945 and according to various interviews, it appears that Sgt. Genaust, as a rifleman, accompanied a patrol with the 28th Marines.  Their objective was Hill 362.¹

A portion of Hill 362A. USMC photo

They came upon a cave opening.  They had to clear it then seal it.  Grenades were thrown in.  With the confusion of battle, casualties and time, specifics are varied but it is clear Sgt. Genaust entered the cave with flashlight at hand.  After a brief period, Japanese machine gun fire erupted from within the cave.  As in many other instances, Sgt. William Homer Genaust, USMC, was gunned down; he became one of the 5,931 Marine deaths on that godforsaken eight square mile sulfuric island.²

The Marines decided it would be too dangerous to enter the cave, not only to kill the enemy but to retrieve the body of Sgt. Genaust.  According to USMC procedure at that time, grenades were hurled into the cave opening and it was seared with flame throwers.  TNT was then used to seal the opening.  Sgt. Genaust would not be recovered.

He was killed in action nine days after filming atop Mt. Suribachi.  He never lived to see his historic footage nor of its impact on patriotism… but Adelaide, his wife, would.

But she would be viewing it in a way you may not expect.

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The processed USMC color motion pictures were apparently divided into two batches: D-Day to D+8 (containing Genaust’s flag footage) and D+8 to D+18.  The first batch went to the Joint Staff in DC; the second batch was brought in by Norm Hatch.

After review by the Joint Staff, the footage was sent to… Hollywood.  They would use such footage for newsreels or documentaries.  The Kodachrome 16mm footage would be blown up to B&W 35mm movie footage for use in theaters and the like.

The first time Genaust’s footage (uncredited) was made public was in the Universal Newsreel of March 19, 1945 with a caption of “Old Glory Flies Over Iwo Jima”.  It was a seven second clip.

The next time the footage was shown was in To the Shores of Iwo Jima, with the production supervised by Norm Hatch .  The flag footage, in the middle of the documentary, aired on June 7, 1945.  Incredibly, the fighting on Iwo Jima was still going on. (YouTube link below is set to begin at some of Genaust’s footage of flame throwers on D-Day; his flag footage is at around the 10 minute mark.)

The footage became one of the inspirations for Sands of Iwo Jima.  It was also used in the TV series, Victory at Sea, which I watched as a youth over and over.

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On April 25, 1945, Adelaide received the dreaded telegram… just like hundreds of thousands of American mothers and wives of that time. That is how she learned of his death.

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USMC archives.

According to an interview of Sgt. Genaust’s nephew in a recent documentary, he said Adelaide did not realize nor was told the famous footage was taken by her husband.  Upon learning her late husband was the cinematographer, however, whenever Adelaide would go to a movie theater, she would constantly see the footage.  I can imagine in her heart, the hurt would be renewed and badly.  She soon stopped going.  Later, the footage would be also shown when TV stations used to sign off for the night.

It also appears that Adelaide wrote a letter on May 7 to Lt. Colonel Donald Dickson, her late husband’s commander.  It is but my guess but since Sgt. Genaust was declared missing in action (as per procedure), Adelaide may have written Dickson and asked of the possibility he may have been captured.

Dickson replied with a courteous and respectful three page letter (Undated, letter in its entirety. National Museum of the Marine Corps):

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genaust 14191736295_26704232c9_ogenaust 14005075668_4ae1ee7041_oAnd in a wretched twist, the US Post Office delivered to Adelaide a letter months later.  The letter had been written by her husband a couple of months before his death.  Upon reading the letter and in anguish, she threw it away.

You see… it was Adelaide who convinced her husband, William Homer Genaust, to become a combat cameraman for the United States Marine Corps.

Now he was gone.

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The Two Flags Today and Genaust’s Remains

Both flags are in the possession of the National Museum of the Marine Corps, located just outside the sacred grounds of Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.

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The first flag raised on Iwo Jima. Both flags are at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, just outside the Marine Corps Base Quantico. The second flag is kept in a crate to protect it from further decay and is not shown anymore on a regular basis. I hope to visit the museum one day. USMC photo.

In spite of attempts in 2007 and 2008, JPAC has been unable to locate the remains of Sgt. Genaust.  However, another viable lead has reportedly surfaced.  An Army veteran who was stationed on Iwo Jima from 1946 – 1947 clearly recalled seeing a wooden sign which read “Bill Genaust died here”.  However, it was reportedly on the north side of Hill 362A, not the SW side where JPAC was targeting.³  This has been rejected by the US military.

Sgt. Bill Genaust is still on Iwo Jima.

May his soul be at peace… as well as Adelaide’s.

As the Marines say, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

Semper Fi, Mac.

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This closes this series.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

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NOTES:

1.  According to such sources, there was an US Army Nisei linguist on Genaust’s final patrol whose job was to talk the Japanese out of such caves.  All in all, there were over 50 Japanese-American Nisei’s on Iwo Jima.  One (Sgt. Mike Masato Deguchi) stepped on a land mine and died from his wounds after war’s end.

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US Army Nisei Tom Miyagi (on the far right in USMC helmet) on Iwo Jima holds a wounded Japanese soldier while he receives medical attention.
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A rare photo of some of the US Army Nisei’s sent to the battle for Iwo Jima.  The Caucasian lieutenant in the center is unidentified.

AP press photographer Joe Rosenthal spoke highly of the Nisei he observed on Iwo Jima, saying they were there to prove they were Americans (per Nisei Linguists, Dr. James McNaughton, US Army Historian).

2.  One of the greatest Marines in history, Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, MOH and Navy Cross, was also killed on Iwo Jima on the first day of the invasion.

3.  Japan still makes recovery visits to Iwo Jima.  They are still uncovering Japanese remains, some of which have become mummified.

Iwo Jima Flag Raising(s) – the MOVIE (Part 3)


“There She Goes”

In the climax of the classic Hollywood movie Sands of Iwo Jima above, the words, “There she goes,” are uttered by a fictional Marine played by Forrest Tucker.

You will soon read that those were the words apparently said in a brief conversation between Sgt. Bill Genaust and AP photographer Joe Rosenthal atop Mt. Suribachi on February 23, 1945.

And you thought Hollywood movies were all fiction…¹

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Page 2 of a poignant letter written by Sgt. Genaust to the mother of his buddy, Howard McClue, who was killed in action shortly after Genaust was taken out of combat. USMC archives.

In Part 2, we left Sgt. Genaust recovering from a gun shot wound to his thigh and learning his fellow Marine and close buddy, Howard McClue, was killed soon after.

He apparently felt great loss from the death of McClue and sent a letter to his mother (above) explaining of what happened to her son that day.  It is one of the few remaining letters written by Sgt. Genaust.

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With his .45 Colt holstered on his shoulder, Sgt. Genaust is pictured in a cave in a combat zone. His name can be clearly seen on his camera supply pack along with the abbreviation “Photo Sect.”. The caption indicated this was taken on Iwo Jima, 1945. The other Marine is unidentified.

The Flag Raising and Iconic History

According to records, Genaust recuperated from his wounds on Hawaii.  According to Norm Hatch, their Colonel (who I believe to be Col. Dickson) gave Genaust the option to remain stateside due to his combat tour and wounds.

Genaust said no.  Even though his Navy Cross was declined because he was not an infantryman, he rose above the disappointment and subsequently volunteered to go to Iwo Jima.  At that time, no one could have anticipated the horrific savagery of battle and carnage.  If you remained alive, it was by pure chance.

Sgt. Genaust was embedded with the 4th Marines and stormed ashore onto the talcum powder-like black sands on February 19, 1945.

When the Marines would clear an area of the enemy, they would move forward – only to have more Japanese pop out of the same caves and holes they had cleared through their vast network of underground tunnels.

In substance, there was no clear “front line”.  The only front line was the ground: the Marines on the surface, the Japanese  below.  Instantaneous death came unseen to these young boys from every conceivable angle or location.

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Combat photograph. The foot of Mt. Suribachi is in the background.  USMC archives.

Think of it this way: every Marine on that stinking island was in sight of a Japanese rifle or artillery.

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To the Top of Mt. Suribachi

Sgt. Genaust miraculously survived the furious death being hurled at him and the Marines during the first few days of the invasion.  Again, his hand was steady but he was definitely “excited” as he mislabeled his sixth reel but corrected it in time.  While I am unable to mark his scenes, you can see some of Genaust’s combat footage at this link immediately below.  You can see his boot as he was lying prone on the sand, filming his fellow Marines invading the beachhead; in other scenes, flame throwers are captured crawling on the sand.

http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675029325_raising-American-flag_American-attack_troops-advance_command-ship_Mount-Suribachi

On February 23, 1945 (D+4), Marines were ordered to fight to the top of Mt. Suribachi.  These Marines had a flag with them.

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The first smaller flag is carried up Mt. Suribachi. Photo taken by Sgt. Louis Lowery, USMC.

According to official USMC records, the following occurred the morning of February 23, 1945:

“Lieutenant Colonel Chandler W. Johnson, the battalion commander, decided to send a 40-man combat patrol (remnants of the 3d Platoon of Company E, and a handful of men from battalion headquarters) under command of First Lieutenant Harold G. Schrier, the Company E executive officer, to seize and occupy the crest.  Sgt. Louis Lowery, a Marine photographer for Leatherneck magazine, accompanied that patrol.”²

This first flag brought ashore for this purpose was small, 54″ by 28″.

The USMC record continues:

“The patrol reached the rim of the crater about 1015. As the Marines scrambled over the lip, a small defending force challenged the patrol and a short, hot fight developed. Even while this skirmish was in progress, some of the men located a length of Japanese iron
pipe, secured the small American flag to one end, and
raised the Stars and Stripes at 1020.”
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Members of the 40 man patrol affix the first flag to a section of Japanese iron pipe found atop Mt. Suribachi. Taken by Sgt. Lowery, USMC, February 23, 1945. USMC archives.
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A photograph taken by Sgt. Louis Lowery, USMC, of the true first flag raised over Japanese soil. February 23, 1945.
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Sgt. Lowery captures some of the firefight atop Mt. Suribachi. The Marines are using hand grenades and flame throwers against cave openings. Some of the US invasion fleet can be seen in the distance. USMC archives.

After snapping pictures of this first flag being raised, Sgt. Lowery was sent over a crater’s edge from the blast of a Japanese grenade that had been thrown during the firefight.  During the tumble, Lowery’s camera and lens were broken but the film remained secure.

Sgt. Lowery felt his mission was accomplished and started back down.  In essence, he did take the first photos atop Mt. Suribachi.

During his descent, Lowery ran into Sgt. Genaust and PFC Bob Campbell (another USMC photographer)… and a civilian Associated Press photographer named Joe Rosenthal.  They were climbing to the top under orders from Norm Hatch.  Lowery informed them the flag had already been raised.  Still, Genaust and the two other photographers thought photo ops still remained and carried on.  After all, Genaust and Campbell were under orders to do so.

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Sgt. Michael Strank, KIA. USMC photo.

Prior to that – and after the first flag had been raised – PFC Rene Gagnon was carrying the second, more well known flag and walkie-talkie batteries up Mt. Suribachi on orders from Col. Johnson.  He joined up with a patrol heading up the slopes led by Sgt. Michael Strank.  (This group then made up five of the six Marines made famous by the photograph catching the raising of the second flag.)

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Per USMC records and upon reaching the summit, “Sgt. Strank took the flag from Gagnon, and gave it to Lieutenant Schrier, saying that “Colonel Johnson wants this big flag run up high so every son of a bitch on this whole cruddy island can see it.”

Sgt. Genaust took a quick movie of the first smaller flag as he approached the summit, whipped about by the wind.  Then, these three cameramen men saw the first flag was about to be taken down with the more famous second flag was being readied.

Genaust, Campbell and Rosenthal hurried to their shooting positions.  According to an oral interview of Joe Rosenthal, “While the photographers were taking their positions to get the shot, Genaust — the motion picture photographer — asked “Joe, I’m not in your way, am I?”  Joe turned to look at Genaust, who suddenly saw the flag rising and said, ‘Hey, there she goes!'”

Genaust then filmed the entire flag raising process (below) while Rosenthal snapped that now famous image.³

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Sgt. Campbell took this image of the “posed” group after the raising of the second flag. While Joe Rosenthal’s back is towards the camera, Sgt. Bill Genaust can be seen at the very left, filming with his Autoload 16mm movie camera. USMC archives.

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In a purely timing-related quirk of fate, Rosenthal’s film was processed the next day; being USMC, Campbell’s and Genaust’s were about ten days later.

Factually, Rosenthal’s 4×5 negative film was immediately sent to AP’s processing center in Guam.  The staff there – after slight cropping – transmitted it back AP in the States.  Rosenthal’s famous photograph hit the newspapers only 17-1/2 hours after Rosenthal snapped the picture.

No one on Iwo Jima knew about the photo nor the patriotic stir it generated at this time, less than 24 hours after it was snapped… and certainly, that it was a photo of the second flag.

Unfortunately, for Sgt. Genaust, all motion picture film successfully evacuated from the combat zone were shipped to Pearl Harbor for processing – about nine days.  Where was FedEx when you needed them.

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Back on Iwo Jima, Hatch and Lowery began to hear scuttlebutt about a photo taken of the flag being raised on Mt. Suribachi.  While some specifics differ, both Hatch and Lowery assumed the frenzy was about Lowery’s photo.  Apparently, neither knew of the specifics involving the actions of Genaust and Campbell.  There was a war going on.  They couldn’t very well text each other.

Rosenthal also had no idea whatsoever his photo sparked nationwide optimism about the war until a short time later.  His name became associated with one of the most viewed photographs of WWII.

But nobody knew of Sgt. William Homer Genaust, the Marine motion picture man who at least killed nine enemy soldiers, was wounded, then was denied the Navy Cross because he was an infantryman.  And the man who took the only motion picture footage of the second flag.

And only a few knew Lowery DID take the first pictures of the first smaller US flag being raised atop Suribachi.

However, due to an errant reply from Rosenthal himself, a fury of accusations that the flag raising in the photograph was staged circulated.  Indeed, since Lowery didn’t know the SECOND flag was raised while Genaust and Campbell were present fueled some anger in him.  I took the picture of the flag raising!  Not Rosenthal!

Ironically, it would be Sgt. Genaust’s film processed and made public a couple of weeks later that will positively prove the photo was taken as it happened and not posed.

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The uncropped photograph as taken by Joe Rosenthal with his 4×5 Speedgraphic. It is reported the pole itself weighed about 100 pounds.

The destiny of Sgt. Genaust and the movie will be in Part 4.  Ironies will become intertwined for many, including Adelaide, his wife.

Please stay tuned.

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NOTES:

1.  The film Sands of Iwo Jima, whose invasion scene was filmed at the beaches of Camp Pendleton, a number of Marines who were in combat on Iwo Jima had cameo roles.  Most significantly, Navy Corpsman PhM2C John Bradley, Corporal Ira Hayes and Pfc. Rene Gagnon were in the last scenes as well in the movie clip above.  There were six flag raisers; of the three, only Bradley, Hayes and Gagnon survived the battle.  The other three – Sgt. Mike Strank (26), Cpl. Harlon Block (21) and Pfc. Franklin Sousley (19) – were killed in action on Iwo Jima.

2.  Lt. Schrier has a cameo role in the same movie, Sands of Iwo Jima.

3.  The footage here is reportedly colorized meaning Sgt. Genaust’s original footage is in B&W.  However, I understand that all USMC 16mm motion picture footage was color (specifically, Kodachrome).

Iwo Jima Flag Raising(s) – the MOVIE (Part 2)


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USMC Sgt Bill Genaust posing with his B&H Autoload motion picture camera. My guess – GUESS – is this appears to be a PR shot. If so, it was taken after his actions on Saipan.  USMC photo.

Now trained in motion picture combat methods, Sgt. Genaust is headed into his first combat.  What all Marines train for.

He is headed into a hell hole called Saipan.

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Overview of Pacific Campaign; Saipan is dead center. You can also see Guam and Tinian to the south. Tinian is where the Enola Gay was stationed. USMC report.

The United States had fought her way up the Solomon Islands campaign with great cost.

Saipan was at the edge of the Japanese Empire in 1944. Not only did it have two airfields, the taking of Saipan would allow the US to launch the B-29 bombers against the Japanese homeland.

The Japanese command knew this.  First and foremost, Saipan was part of their territory having been under their control since 1922.  They knew they must keep Saipan out of American hands at all costs or else their homeland would be vulnerable to air attack.

US intelligence estimated a garrison of 15,000 Japanese troops on Saipan.

They were very, very wrong.

The Marines and Sgt. Genaust would be assaulting an island with over 30,000 Japanese troops (although only about half were armed), fighting to the death to protect THEIR land.

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Photo reconnaissance was extensive.  It was so extensive that the Marines had rubberized 3D maps of the island made to familiarize the young Marines as to the terrain.¹  Even trench lines were clearly visible.

However, there was a shortcoming to these 3D maps: they could not show the spider holes, small pillboxes, caves nor the hardships in fighting in sugar cane fields.

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Remnants of the battle: a destroyed Japanese pillbox on Saipan, courtesy of my flickr friend reef_wreck. Clicking on the picture will take you to his photostream.

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On June 15th, 1944, Sgt. Genaust was one of about a dozen motion picture men assaulting the western beachheads in LVTs and Amtracs (see below).  The 4th Marines assaulted the southern beach area and the 2nd Marines just to the north².  About 8,000 Marines hit the beach in about 20 minutes.

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A sunken LVT at Saipan. Linked from the Pacific Maritime Heritage Trail website.

However and as seen above, many did not even make it to the beach.  As the hundreds of landing craft reached the edge of the reef, they were at the receiving end of pre-sighted Japanese artillery.  Some landing craft overturned, drowning the young Marines.  Others took direct hits from artillery fire, completing obliterating the landing craft and the Marines on board.  As they got closer to the beach, the landing craft received small arms fire.

Death was everywhere.

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Remnants of death. The sole of a Japanese soldier’s combat boot on Saipan, unearthed at the site of the largest banzai charge of the war. Courtesy of my flickr friend, Reef_Wreck. Clicking on the photo will take you to his photostream.

To further worsen the situation, stiff currents carried part of the 2nd Marines further north than planned.  Once on the beach, they found themselves 400 yards too far north.  They would now have to fight back towards their comrades in the 4th Division.

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A US Marine tank lays half sunk on the reef off the invasion beach on Saipan. Mt. Tapotchau, the highest point on the island and from where Japanese spotters directed artillery, can be seen right behind the open hatch. Photo courtesy of my flickr friend, reef_wreck; clicking on the picture will take you to his photostream.

Once on the beach, the Marines received targeted artillery and mortar rounds, directed by Japanese spotters above Mount Tapotchau, the highest point on the island.  The Japanese were equipped with 16 – 105mm, 30 – 75mm, and eight – 150mm guns on the high ground.

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Remnants of the battle on Saipan: a still unexploded round laying in the sand, courtesy of my flickr friend, reef_wreck. Clicking on the picture will take you to his photostream.

The battle became a slugfest, which included the largest tank battle in the Pacific War (the Japanese sent 44 tanks to attack the Marines and the soldiers who had landed the second day) and towards the end of the near month-long battle, the largest banzai charge of the war.  In the banzai charge, over 3,000 Japanese soldiers – some armed with spears – charged the Marines and soldiers, with brutal hand to hand combat lasting for over 15 hours.  It was total carnage.  Both attacks occurred under the cover of darkness.  Fear at its peak.

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A destroyed Japanese tank near the southern airstrip on Saipan taken by the US Marines (It is now Saipan Airport). Photo courtesy of my flickr friend reef_wreck; clicking on the picture will take you to his photostream.

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In his first taste of combat, it is reported Sgt. Genaust did extremely well as a cameraman.  Although surely trembling with fear along with his comrades, his first film reel was remarkably of steady hand.  (I’m so old now, I can’t even hold my own camera still anymore.  Incredible courage that man had.)  Remember, this is before image stabilization.

Much of the more viewed footage that can be seen now on the internet was shot by Sgt. Genaust.  In it, you can see the intense emotions in the young Marines.  Their faces.  Their body language.  Not only are they trying to fight the enemy, the fear is evident as death lurked everywhere.

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The assault on Saipan begins. There will be about 2,000 casualties in the first day alone. USMC photo.

Sgt. Genaust was filming for about three weeks.  Sadly, only three of his reels survive today.  The others have been lost.

And while specifics of his combat actions are lost with time, there was an interruption in his filming.  However, it is clear he was fighting for his life as a rifleman.  Nowhere was safe on that island.

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Unexploded American hand grenades still litter the Saipan landscape. The military still collects the potentially unstable and unexploded ordnance then blows them up even today. Photo courtesy of my flickr friend reef_wreck; clicking on the picture will take you to his photostream.

And although he primarily shot with his movie camera, he also shot with his carbine.  On Sunday, July 9th, 1944, Sgt. Genaust and his buddy Howard McClue, found themselves near the Marpi Airstrip.  They were under orders to eliminate all resistance on the northern part of the island.  They were to hook up with other Marines approaching from the opposite direction.

Their first contact with the other Marines was with a tank.  Their tank commander asked for riflemen so Sgt. Genaust and two of his buddies, including fellow cameraman Howard McClue, began to follow the tank.  The tank then hit a land mine and was destroyed.

As they continued on with their mission, they were ambushed by the Japanese of platoon strength.  Apparently outnumbered, Sgt. Genaust apparently ordered the two Marines during the firefight to go back and get reinforcements.  Genaust was then alone to fight them off.  He was in a fight for his life, with his carbine the only thing protecting him from a potentially ugly death.

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The Japanese had erected structures with corrugated tin roofs like those you can see in the background. Naval and artillery barrages obliterated such structures but in doing so, would scatter the corrugated tin. Japanese soldiers would lay under such sheets laying in wait as Marines would approach to clear the village. USMC photo.

McClue was successful in bringing back reinforcements.  He was apparently not 100% clear on where he left Genaust but did locate him roughly 50 yards away.  Just then, Genaust rose up to direct the Marines towards the enemy but was then immediately shot through his thigh.

In the time McClue was gone, Genaust single-handedly killed nine Japanese soldiers.  Incredible when you think he was a cameraman…but he was a Marine first and foremost.  He was expert with his rifle.

His wound required Genaust to be immediately evacuated and hospitalized.³

However, that will not be his only wound.  His close buddy, Howard McClue, would be killed later that day, shot through his heart per a letter Genaust wrote to his mother, Mrs. McClue, later in January 1945.4

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For his courageous action in combat, a Colonel Dickson had written a handwritten recommendation for Genaust to be awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest medal for bravery.  Only the Medal of Honor is higher.

Unbelievably, his recommendation for the Navy Cross was declined.  Instead, he was only awarded a Bronze Star.  The reason was beyond belief: the Navy declared he was not an infantryman but only a cameraman.

The Marine Corps is never wrong, of course, but they were sure short on being right.

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While Genaust could have elected to stay back in the States, he declined.

He was headed for Iwo Jima.

Please stay tuned for Part 3.

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NOTES

1.  This was the first time 3D maps were used.

2.  The assault force also included the US Army’s 27th Infantry Division under the command of US Army General Ralph Smith, who was later sacked by Lt. General Howlin’ Mad Smith of the USMC.

3. Old Man Jack told me wounds would get infected very quickly in the jungle heat and humidity, requiring immediate treatment.  The Saipan invasion force was for once supplied with ample medical teams.

4. Ironically, July 9, 1945 was when the highest number of Japanese civilians lept off the cliffs at Marpi Point.  They had been brainwashed by the Japanese military that they will be brutalized by the Marines if they surrendered.  Mothers would throw their babies onto the jagged rocks below then follow them, or, they would jump into the shark infested waters.  Many Marines were traumatized for the rest of their lives after witnessing this horror.  They were trained to fight the Japanese military, not watch thousands of civilians jump to their deaths.  Yet, many Marines risked their lives going up to cave openings to coax civilians out to safety, not knowing if there were Japanese soldiers inside.

The largest banzai charge also just occurred two days earlier, on July 7, 1944.

Saipan was also where a Los Angeles Mexican-American, PFC Guy Gabaldon, helped capture about one thousand Japanese civilians and soldiers.  He was able to speak enough Japanese having spent time with a Japanese-American family and attended military language school.  He was initially awarded a Silver Star but it was upgraded to the the Navy Cross in 1960.  Admittedly, there was controversy on his true actions.

At the end, American forces sustained 3,426 killed and 13,099 wounded. Japanese losses were approximately 29,000 killed (in action and suicides) and 921 captured.  It is estimated over 20,000 civilians were killed.