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The Man We Left Behind
Sgt Bill Genaust USMC-Iwo Jima 1945

October 4, 1999

We learn something new every day, or so they say.  As a Marine, I considered myself well versed on the Iwo Jima operation and the famous flag raising, etc. that took place there on February 23, 1945. Many  of the American public still do not know that there were actually two flag raisings that day, not just one; twelve flag raisers, not just six; several photographs and a motion-picture footage, not just one. And, today, only one of those twelve flag raisers remains alive, his name is Charles W. Lindberg. Most Marines, however, do know these things. And we know, most of us, the names of both the first and the second flag raisers, as well as the story of how it all came about.

And to a  lesser extent some of us remember the names of those who photographed the flag raisings. Their names were Rosenthal, Lowery, Hipple, Campbell, and Genaust, etc. This little known story is about one of those Marine photographers, Sgt William Genaust USMC.

A few days ago, I received an e-mail from Mr. Frank Clynes, which expanded my knowledge of the events associated with the Iwo Jima operation, as follows. 

The Man We Left Behind

Dear Sir,

I would like to seek your support in having the Navy Cross
awarded posthumously to Marine Corps Sergeant Bill Genaust.  He was recommended for this medal by Lt. Colonel Donald Dickson USMC some fifty-four years ago, but it somehow slipped through the cracks of history.  The recommendation was for action during the battle of Saipan.  His heroic courage was detailed in a hand written letter from Colonel Dickson to Bill Genaust's widow, which explained
in detail why he recommended Bill for the second highest award in the Marine Corps.

Bill Genaust's story did not end on Saipan.  His name and deeds
are well known to students of American history.  He is the same Bill
Genaust who later climbed Mt. Suribachi and captured on motion picture film, the famous Flag Raising on Iwo Jima.

The newsreels of the day brought this historic flag raising to
millions of Americans in movie theaters all across the country, but Bill never lived to see his own pictures.  He was killed in action just nine days after the flag was raised.  His amazing story was told in the book "Immortal Images" by Tedd Thomey. <>

"Who will stand at either hand and guard the bridge with me?"
From the time of Horatius even unto the present, men of outstanding courage and character have always been there, to defend freedom against the forces of tyranny - often with little recognition or reward.  Bill Genaust was such a man.

The Marines pride themselves in never leaving anyone behind, but
Genaust is still there... on Iwo Jima.  When the USMC removed the bodies of those honored dead from the island for burial in national cemeteries, his was not among them.  He and a comrade had entered a cave to flush out the enemy and were killed by a squad of Japanese hidden inside.  The Marines hit the cave with a flame thrower and then blew up the entrance.  He still lies there today, in an unmarked grave.

Combat photographers go into battle to capture on film the
heroism of others, only to die and lie forgotten in their own.  Tedd Thomey did not forget him, nor should we.  Today, in the age of "what's in it for me", America desperately needs to pause and to remember -- that once there were giants...

Go tell Bill Genaust that we're coming back for him.

"And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day
when I make up my jewels."  ----- Malachi 3:17

ps:  If you can help me find Lt. Col. Donald L. Dickson USMC,
that would be very helpful.  The USMC has informed me they will follow through with the posthumous Navy Cross award if Lt. Dickson would resubmit his recommendation.

Frank Clynes
65 Pine Street
Swansea, Mass. 

I informed Frank that I would attempt to assist him by posting his message on several Marine message boards, and several Marine related E-Mail Discussions Lists that I am familiar with, etc.  And I did so, providing copies of each to Frank. I next heard back from Frank as follows.

I want to thank you for your efforts on behalf of Sgt. Bill Genaust.  If this Navy Cross can be posthumously awarded, it will be to the credit
and honor of every Marine who ever served this country.

But I have no intention of stopping there.  Fortified with the national
publicity this long overdue presentation would generate, I intend to go to the Japanese Embassy in Washington, DC and request that their
government direct the Japanese Army, still garrisoned on Iwo Jima, to search for and locate the mortal remains of Sgt. Genaust and as many of his comrades as they can find, and send them home to a heroes welcome, to be buried with honor in Arlington National Cemetery.

Those Iwo Jima caves were interconnected by a vast complex of
tunnels that honeycombed through out the volcanic hills.  In all likelihood, the Japanese squad that killed Genaust in that cave, escaped out the back door to fight another day.  I'm betting that back door is still open, and the Japanese have preserved the WWII maps of those tunnels.  It's time for the lost battalion to return.  Sgt. Bill Genaust can bring them all home.    It can be done. ...
Let's do it.

Whose heart within him never burned,
As home, his footsteps he hath turned
From wandering on some foreign strand.
Breathes there a man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said;
"This is my own, my native land."
-Sir Walter Scott

--Frank Clynes 

And here is a copy of the Col Dickson letter, etc. provided by Frank.


The attached file is a picture of Bill Genaust.  This web site below shows the Bill Genaust film clip.

The following is the letter written by Lt. Col. Donald L. Dickson to the
widow of Sgt. Bill Genaust in 1944..  Please share it with your readers...

My dear Mrs. Genaust:

Your letter of 7 May has been forwarded to me here at my new

Please let me begin by telling you a little of how I feel about
your husband.  Sgt. Bill Genaust was one of the finest men it has ever been my privilege to serve with.  He was quiet, industrious and very courageous.  I know how devoted he was to you and the children because he told me about you several times.  Bill was the kind of man who represents the very best in the Marine corps.  When I first heard he had become a casualty, it hit me harder personally than any of the other fine men I have lost.  I had great confidence in Bill and I think he felt that.  He never once let me down or did anything to lessen my feeling of his competence.

When we first hit Saipan in the Marianes, Bill was on the beach
early.  It was rough because the Japs were throwing shells on that beach from every mortar within range.  Several of these mortar shells landed near Bill and the concussion shocked him a bit.  We told him to remain at the "Press Club" in Charan Kanoa until I could arrange transportation for him back to Pearl Harbor.

However, in a day or so Bill announced that he was completely
recovered, took his camera and rejoined his outfit.  My opinion of him went up even higher.

I imagine he has told you about how he was wounded on Saipan.
Let me give you the story as I have pieced it together from witnesses.
Bill, a photographer named Howard McClue and a scout from the
4th Division were returning from Marpi Point on Saipan, a day or so before the island was announced "secure."  They had completed their mission and were returning to deliver their negatives and secure more fresh film.

While still in the forward area, and very late in the afternoon, they were attacked by about twenty Japs.  Bill told me that at first he
thought it was our own men who were charging them thinking Bill's party were Japs.  They called out to stop shooting, that they were Marines but then they discovered the attackers were Japs.

The three marines took up positions behind a sugar cane railway
embankment and opened fire on the charging Japs.  By the time the Japs had come within a hundred yards of the three Marines the attack was broken up and the remaining Japs took cover behind rocks, where they began a sniping duel.

Unknown to Bill or McClue, the scout withdrew to get help from a nearby Marine unit.  McClue also withdrew, gathered about twenty
Marines and returned to the scene about an hour later.  In the meantime, Bill remained and continued the fight.  We counted nine Jap bodies later. When I asked Bill why he remained there fighting and if escape were possible for him, he answered in true Marine spirit.  He said "Yes, I could have retreated through the cane field behind me, but when I yelled to the other two I got no answer.
 I thought they might have been hurt so I stayed to make sure
the Japs didn't get them."

When McClue returned after an hour it was pretty dark and he brought his Marines out of the cane field too far down.  Bill jumped up and yelled to them.  At that moment a Jap rifleman put a bullet through the fleshy part of Bill's thigh.  A hospital corpsman came up throu the cane field, gave Bill first aid and helped him back to an aid station.  Sometime that night, McClue was shot through the heart while he was apparently searching for Bill.

Bill's wound was neither complicated or serious and a few days later he reported back from the field hospital to me.  He limped a bit because he said his leg was stiff but otherwise he felt fine and told me he was ready to return to duty.

We had the Tinian operation coming up in about a week and I
badly needed photographers, but I told Bill to take it easy, I was going to send him back to Pearl Harbor.  He left by air a few days later.

I immediately wrote up a recommendation for the Navy Cross for Bill and McClue and asked the Division to which they were attached to
forward it through official channels.  When I returned to Pearl Harbor
after the Tinian show I again submitted these recommendations.  To date I have heard no results.

I won't bore you with details, but my responsibility to the
photographers of my unit was rather unusual.  I could order my Public Relations personnel here and there but with photo Personnel it was different and required a bit of red tape.

I had made up my mind that I would send Bill back to the States for a rest and had started the ball rolling for his transfer when I, myself, was ordered back upon completion of my second tour of overseas duty.  I personally asked my relief to carry out the transfer but something unexpected must have turned up after I left, because Bill was assigned to the Iwo Jima operation.

Mrs. Genaust, I know you only from what Bill has told me.
However, if you are like Bill I think you want all the facts I can give you concerning him. These things are very difficult for me to write but I will try to tell you what I know what happened to Bill.

From two photographers who were at Iwo I received this information.  I believe it myself and I give it to you as I heard it.

Bill is not a prisoner.  He has given his most valuable possession to his country -- his life.  He went to his God like the real man and Marine he was.  If it must happen to me I want to go the same way.

As I understand it, a group of Marines were clearing caves of
die-hard Japs. Grenades were thrown in one cave and it was believed all the enemy were killed.  The Marines wanted to double check and asked Bill if they could borrow his flash light.  Bill said he would go in with them. They crawled in and Bill flashed his light around.  There were many Japs still alive and they immediately opened fire.  Bill dropped without a sound.  As the bearer of the light he had been the first target for a number of bullets.  I feel sure he never knew what happened to him.

The Marines forced the Japs deeper into the cave but could not
get them out. More men would have been killed in carrying out of the narrow cave Bill's lifeless body. TNT charges were quickly planted at the cave mouth and exploded. The whole cave mouth was blocked with earth from the explosion and Bill's body was completely buried by it.

That is why Bill has been carried as "missing in action."  This
is an iron bound rule that the body must be recovered and identified before a man is reported "killed in action."  So until the cave is excavated and Bill's body is recovered he will be carried as "missing in action,"

General Denig informs me that the movie of the flag raising on
Mt. Suribachi was taken by Bill.  You may have seen it in the news reels. Bill must have been standing besides Joe Rosenthal when Joe made his famous still picture of the flag raising which is so widely used as a poster for the 7th War Loan Drive.  Bill got movies of the same event, and when I look at the picture, I will always think of Sergeant Bill Genaust and be proud that he was one of my boys.

Inadequate as it is during times like these, I offer my deepest
sympathy to you and the rest of Bill's family.  The world and the Marine Corps has lost a fine, courageous man.  I have lost a friend.

Please feel free to call upon me for anything in which I can
help you.  I shall of course send on to you any further information
concerning Bill that I receive.

May Bill's courage and character be a source of strength to you
at this time.

Donald L. Dickson
Lt. Col. U.S.M.C. 

And then this regarding Colonel Dickson....

Richard Gaines...
Your efforts paid off.  We may have found Lt. Colonel Donald
I received the following message:
Saw your notes on above on the Scuttlebutt and Small Chow pages.
For your info, I provide the following:
1. Colonel Donald L. Dickson is a famous Marine who was a PRO with
CinCPAC, and who covered Marine Corps operations in the Pacific. He participated in landings in the Marshall Islands, Saipan & Tinian. No doubt Sgt. Genaust was in his unit. He returned to the states in Nov 1944 and so was not in the Iwo Jima operation. In the 1950's he became Editor and Publisher of "Leatherneck" for many years and authored several Marine Corps books. He was born in Jan 1906 which would make him 93 years old today. Contact with the Editor's office at Leatherneck should provide you with updated information on his status. Another thought occurs. He may have donated his personal papers to the Marine Corps Historical Center at the Washington Navy Yard. Or his family may have them. It is possible that a copy of any recommendations he made for awards for any of his men may be contained therein. You should also determine the Unit that Sgt Genaust served with as reports may still exist in archives which detail his heroism.

2. I have consulted "Heroes of the Marine Corps 1861-1955"  by
Jane Blakeney and find no award of a Navy Cross (or a Silver Star) for 'Howard McClue' or Sgt Genaust.

3. There WAS a huge fire in St. Louis in 1973. However, Marine
Corps records were not harmed! A request through official channels should produce the Service Records of Genaust and McClue for review.

4. There is a gentleman named Mr. Ben Frank, who for many years
was affiliated with the Marine Corps Historical Center. He is on the
list of Scuttlebutt and Small Chow. perhaps he can help.

Keep me posted. Semper Fi!
Bob Gill Major USMCR (Ret)

Dick, I've sent Maj. Bob Gill the following message:

You struck the Mother Lode!  That's exactly what we needed!!!
I have a copy of Lt. Col. Donald L. Dickson's hand written letter
to Mrs. Genaust,  from the battlefield in 1944, informing her he had
recommended her husband for the Navy Cross.

Tedd Thomey of Long Beach California obtained it from Mrs.
Genaust when he was writing his book "Immortal Images - A Story of Two Photographers."   He returned the original to Mrs. Genaust when he was finished.  His web address is:

Some years later when she died in Florida, all her papers were
apparently sent to a niece in Minnesota, where I believe it now lies.

First thing Monday I am contacting the Editor at Leatherneck
and have him find Lt. Colonel Dickson.  If he is still alive, then we have to contact him to resubmit his recommendation.  If he has died, there must be copies of his handwriting in the Leathernecks archives.
Since he was publisher & editor of the magazine, it should be a simple matter to authenticate his handwriting and confirm that he did indeed recommend Sgt Bill Genaust for the Navy Cross back in 1944.

It may be a bit premature to say it - but, I believe the Marines
have landed.

Go tell Bill Genaust that we're coming back for him..

...Frank Clynes. 

In yet another e-mail to me,  speaking of red tape and those in high places who seemingly should be able to help but do not, Frank says...

...Politicians and bureaucrats, when given a clear choice between doing something and doing nothing, will always choose the latter.  If Bill Genaust ever gets his Navy Cross, it will be accomplished by the
same guys who have always got things done.

When Tedd Thomey was writing his book "Immortal Images" about
Genaust and Joe Rosenthal, it didn't occur to him that the "lost recommendation" was right there in his hands!

That personal, 50 year old, authentic hand-written letter from
Lt. Col. Dickson to Mrs. Genaust, was just as good as the misplaced
recommendation that Dickson had sent to the US War Department in 1944.  It said it all.

Tedd sent the letter back to Mrs. Genaust after photocopying it
and making a type written copy.  Mrs. Genaust died some time later and all her effects were sent to a niece in Minnesota.  When I contacted that source, the woman recalled receiving a box of stuff from a Florida attorney, but she never even opened it.  It's up in her attic somewhere.  Short of flying out to Minnesota myself, I'm trying to get this niece to go up to the attic and look for it.  But I will go if I have to.  If you know any Marines in that state, their service could be invaluable.

Once secured, the handwriting of the Genaust letter can be
authenticated by experts against other existing copies of Dicksons handwriting, which I hope either surviving relatives would have or samples saved by Leathernecks.

Then will come the real battle.  Trying to get people in Washington DC to do the right thing.  When that time comes, we can unleash the Gawd almighty power of the press.  I have contacts on the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, Philadelphia Enquirer and CNN who will push this issue to the top of Capitol Hill.


This case reminds me (somewhat) of the case of Guy "Gabby" Gabaldon, a Mexican lad raised by a Japanese family just prior to WWII in California. When the war began and his family went off to the "camps," Gabaldon joined the U.S. Marine Corps where he served as a PFC in an intelligence section.  Apparently assigned to Intelligence due to his knowledge of the Japanese language, he served in the Pacific island campaigns and, eventually, Saipan. Here he was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but awarded the Silver Star medal for going into Japanese occupied caves, where he is said to have talked from between 1000-1500 refugees/Japanese into surrendering.  Hollywood made a movie of Gabaldon's story in 1960, and the part of Gabaldon was played by the late actor, Jeffrey Hunter.

His Silver Star was "upped" to a Navy Cross in 1960. Gabaldon is the author of two books, "Saipan: Suicide Island" and "America Betrayed"; the former is now out-of-print, however the latter is available through his website below.

Gabaldon WebSites

Hell To Eternity, 1960 (movie)

And , in the course of events descibed in this story about Sgt Genaust, the following e-mail also came to my attention.

Dear Mr. Clynes

Absolutely, Bill Genaust should be awarded the Navy Cross with combat V if applicable for his action at Iwo Jima . Myself and I think I can speak for all HsinHo survivors, sincerely doubt if you will ever get a favorable conclusion from the Corps.
Members of C Company, 1st Bn, 5th Reg, 1st Mar Div have been corresponding with HQMC and The Navy Dept. since 1992 to gain official recognition for combat action in North China on 5 April, 1947 which resulted in 5 Marines KIA and 18 WIA by units of the  Communist Chinese Regular Army.

Personal decorations awarded for this action were three Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars and 23 Purple Hearts but no unit award.
Three years ago, I located Capt. Richard A. Krajnyak who served in WW II and Korea. Mr Krajnyak whos awards include two Purple Hearts, Commended for Valor, Asiatic/Pacific Campaign Ribbon w/4 engagement stars,China Service Ribbon, Korean Campaign w/3 engagement stars and the PUC/V.
Mr. Krajnyak was a 1st Lt. and C-1-5's ex Officer on 5 April, 1947 so he has complete knowledge of events of that action but has been twice denied official MC recognition. First for a PUC and the last time, a Navy Unit Commendation w/v dated March 26, 1999.
Good luck Mr. Clynes and Semper Fi
E-Mail: <>
C-1-5 China Marine
Lloyd L. Remus Sr.
3446 Willoughby Rd.
Holt, MI 48842  

Update, 10/26/99
Since this webpage has gone online. the following information has come to light.

1. LtCol Donald Dickson is deceased ; he had been editor of Leatherneck magazine for many years.

2. The present editor of Leatherneck, W. L. Ford, has been asked by General Palm to determine the facts of the Sgt Genaust case.

3. It has been determined that Sgt Genaust was awarded the Bronze Star medal; but it is unclear at this time whether or not this award was for the same action which LtCol Dickson had recommended him for the Navy Cross.

4. The original letter from LtCol Dickson to Mrs. Genaust, in which Dickson states that he had recommended Genaust for the Navy Cross, has been recovered from a Minnesota museum, the home state of Genaust.

5. The recent death of Senator Chaffee (former Marine officer and veteran of both WWII and Korea, Governor of Rhode Island, etc.) was a setback, as he was in the process of assisting Frank Clynes in his quest to both have the Navy Cross awarded and retrieve the remains of Sgt Genaust, and others, from Iwo Jima. Frank Clynes continues in his fight for Sgt Genaust!

In a recent e-mail from the editor of Leatherneck to Frank Clynes it was stated:
>> If we find in Sgt. Genaust's records that he received the Bronze
Star medal for the action on Saipan as I am fairly certain he did, then
you are going to have to fight  an uphill battle to have the award upgraded from a Bronze Star to a Navy Cross. <<

The above is an obvious allusion to the fact that many recommendations for an award are "downgraded" to a lesser award.
For instance:
"...there was a Bronze Star for Puller, given for the action on Guadalcanal in which he was wounded. He told officers in the privacy of his tent: 'They recommended me for a Silver Star for that action, and back at Corps Headquarters at Noumea some jerk reduced it to a Bronze Star. What right have those people got to put their cotton-picking hands into things like that? They didn't see the action, and have no way on earth to judge. Wouldn't you think they could see what it does to morale? I can stand it. I've got enough damned medals. But what it does to these young kids is inexcusable.' "
(From "Marine! The Life of Lt. Gen. Lewis B. (Chesty) Puller, USMC (Ret.) by Burke Davis, 1962.

And then there was the case of PFC Guy Gabaldon...
"...I was recommended for the Medal of Honor and the citation came back The Silver Star....However, because of a twinge of conscience, somewhere in Washington, the Silver Star was later elevated to the Navy Cross. The Brass in Washington said that because of a Five Year Statute of Limitations in appealing a CMH case, any consideration is precluded by law....There is a Statute to that effect, but that does not prohibit the Marine Corps Brass from requesting that the President present the Medal as the Army has done on several occasions. Presidents Carter and Reagan awarded the Medal of Honor many years after the fact."
(From "Saipan: Suicide Island" by Guy Gabaldon, written, printed and published by Guy Gabaldon, Saipan Island, USA, March 1990 

An e-mail from Frank Clynes reminds us "why" and sums it all up quite succinctly, I think. It is dated 10/28/99 and reads in part:

"... We don't need people on this committee who know that it can't be done. To them we can only say, "Go tell it to the Marines."  .... one million former Marines are going to converge on Washington....Everybody who is anybody has been invited to take part in the ceremony, except the man we left behind...The man whose motion picture footage created that famous monument. He still lies forgotten -- somewhere in a cave in the Pacific, on the island they said could not be taken.

If the truth be known, Sgt. Bill Genaust does not need the Navy Cross, and he does not need a funeral with full military honors in Arlington VA, at the site of the Flag Raising Monument that he inspired.  He has gone to his God and received honor and reward, far beyond anything we could ever hope to match or imagine.

But the men and women serving today in our armed services need for him to get it.  They need to know that if they die in the service of their country and fall in some remote part of the world, that their sacrifice ... their life has meaning!  That this country will honor them, and will move heaven and earth to bring them home, no matter how long it takes.

And that is why we must go tell Bill Genaust, that we're coming back for him.

For we are
Semper Fidelis.
---Frank Clynes

It is my hope that Frank Clynes be successful in his goals as stated above. He should be commended for his integrity, tenacity and determination. If you agree with the direction of what has been stated above, and/or you wish to support him or wish him well,  you may reach him at the following E-Mail address:
Even better, contact your congressmen/senators/governor/local newspaper/talk-shows, veterans organizations, etc.
For those of you who wish to learn more regarding the details relative to the story of Sgt Genaust (as well as other information relating to the Iwo Jima operation), I would refer you to the most detailed and excellent source that I have found--the Book, "Immortal Images," by Tedd Thomey, Naval Institute Press, 1996.
Thank you for reading thus far, and....
Semper Fidelis
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(Please Hit the "Sign" button only Once to
avoid multiple entries-Thank You)

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