IWO JIMA, Japan — A team of U.S. searchers looking for the remains of the Marine who filmed the famous flag-raising over Iwo Jima say they've located two possible sites and recommend a larger group excavate them, officials said.
"Our investigation has been very successful," U.S. Army Maj. Sean Stinchon told the Associated Press, the only civilian press agency with the search team that had been surveying and digging on the island for 10 days.
"We found two caves and tunnels. We will recommend a follow-up team be brought in to use heavy equipment," he said last week.
He said the team did not find the remains of Sgt. William H. Genaust, who filmed the flag-raising days before he was killed during combat on the island.
"We are the initial investigation. We surveyed the hill. We will need to return to actually dig for specific remains," Maj. Stinchon said.
The seven-man team, including an anthropologist, focused mainly on surveying Hill 362A, where Sgt. Genaust was believed to have been killed.
It was the first U.S.-led search on Iwo Jima — one of the fiercest and most symbolic battlegrounds of World War II — in nearly 60 years.
A combat photographer with the 28th Marines, Sgt. Genaust filmed the raising of the flag atop Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, standing just feet away from AP photographer Joe Rosenthal as he took the photograph that won a Pulitzer Prize and came to symbolize the war in the Pacific.
Sgt. Genaust, then 38, 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 the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, headquartered in Hawaii.
The last known surviving flag-raiser, Charles W. Lindberg, who helped put up the first flag, died June 24 in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina. He was 86.
Iwo Jima — inhabited only by a small contingent of Japanese troops — continues to be an open grave.
Though most of the American dead were recovered in 1948, some 250 U.S. troops are still missing from the Iwo Jima campaign. Many were lost at sea, but others died in caves or were buried by explosions.
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 — but, to date, no Americans, said Health Ministry official Nobukazu Iwadate.
The U.S. officially took the volcanic island on March 26, 1945, after a 31-day battle that pitted roughly 100,000 U.S. forces against 21,200 Japanese. Some 6,821 Americans were killed; only 1,033 Japanese survived. Of 82 Medals of Honor won by Marines in World War II, 26 were won on Iwo Jima.
Sgt. Genaust got no credit for his footage of the flag-raising in accordance with Marine Corps policy. In 1995, a bronze plaque was put atop Suribachi to honor him.
The search was prompted in large part by information provided by Bob Bolus, a Scranton, Pa., businessman who became intrigued by Sgt. Genaust after reading a Parade magazine story about him two years ago. Using his own money, Mr. Bolus put together a team of experts that was able to pinpoint where Sgt. Genaust's remains are likely to be found.