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,” is 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.

Iwo Jima Flag Raising(s) – the MOVIE (Part 1)


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The more immortalized flag was just hoisted in the background, with a few of the seven famous Marines still trying to secure it. The group of Marines in front have just lowered the first smaller flag that had been raised a bit earlier. February 23, 1945. USMC photo.

I assume you know of the iconic flag raising atop Mt. Suribachi by our courageous US Marines on Iwo Jima?¹  It was immortalized, in my opinion, by the most iconic photo of WWII.

But did you know there were TWO flags?  And that THREE cameramen were involved with capturing the two flag raisings?

And did you ever wonder where the movie of the flag being raised came from…or who shot it?

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You have seen the above color footage of the US flag being raised on Iwo Jima (above) during WWII countless of times.  On TV.  In movies (that’s important – the link to irony later).  Now the internet and YouTube.

And whether you know it or not, it is the ONLY movie – in color, even – ever taken of that proud moment.  A time when the flag was the symbol of the United States.  Flown proudly everywhere without question – unlike the incredibly sad state of affairs today.

But the photographer who took this B&W picture below became famous beyond imagination.  He even won the Pulitzer Prize.

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Iconic photo by Joe Rosenthal.

But in sadness, the Marine who filmed the historic movie footage never even got to see it let alone become famous.

He is still on that stinking island… He was cut down by a Japanese machine gun in a cave while holding a flashlight.  His body was never recovered…  just like my Uncle Suetaro.

He is also a soul lost in a faraway place.

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This series is not being written for military historians like my good friend, blogger and Marine, Mustang_USMC (and from whom I beg forgiveness for writing about his beloved Marine Corps).

It is written for everyday folks… American civilians like you and me.  Or kids who are not taught about the battles or patriotism or the heroism that abounded during World War II (WWII)… but instead, are largely taught of the racism and discrimination that took place during the war.

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Sgt. Bill Genaust at right, standing in front of the flag raised on Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

The man who filmed this historic movie footage was Sergeant Bill Genaust (pronounced Jeh-noust), USMC.  William Homer Genaust.  His last Primary MOS was 4671 – Combat Photographer/Motion Media.  And although he was on Iwo Jima as a combat cameraman, he was a Marine rifleman, first and foremost.  He was like any other Marine.

And like all of the many young Marines who heard the call of duty at that time, he enlisted.  But he was not young.  Far from it.  He was 37 years old by that time and was well established in his hometown of Minneapolis, MN.

He was married; his wife’s name was Adelaide.

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Sgt. Bill Genaust’s wife, Mrs. Adelaide Genaust.

And they lived in this quaint brick house.

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Their little brick home in Minneapolis.

People that knew him say he had an air about him; that he was confident and people around him sensed that.

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On a fateful night after Pearl Harbor, Bill Genaust was listening to the radio one evening when an advertisement came over the air with the Marine Hymm playing in the background.

The United States Marine Corps were looking for cameramen.  He enlisted the next day.  After training like every other recruit, he earned his Eagle, Globe and Anchor (commonly referred to as EGA) and earned the right to be called a Marine.  He was ready to fight.

By the summer of 1943, Bill Genaust was in Quantico, VA, learning cinematography.  Concurrently, SSgt. Norm Hatch was ordered to undergo motion picture camera training.  At that time, organized, large scale filming in combat was new to the Marine Corps as well as for the rest of our armed forces.  It was learning on the fly for all intents and purposes.

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Norm Hatch today on left and earlier as a major. USMC photo.

At the time of Pearl Harbor, motion picture filming was largely done by heavy and cumbersome to use 35mm motion picture cameras.  These were the old movie cameras that had what I call Mickey Mouse ears for film storage.

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Typical 35mm motion picture camera. US Army.

Understanding the horrible conditions in which the Marines would be fighting (jungle, swamps, sand, humidity, etc.), Hatch realized using 35mm equipment was not realistic.  Further, such movie cameras needed their spools threaded by hand when putting in new film.  Imagine doing that while enemy bullets are zinging by and about you.  (Believe me, I know what loading one is like.  Yes, I used a 16mm Bealieu movie camera when I was in high school.  I also loaded my grandfather’s 8mm Nikon movie camera when I was twelve a number of times.)

Also, an exposed spool could be dropped after removal or unwind.  In either case, it would be ruined.  Or, an explosion can rain down sand into the camera’s exposed innards making it inoperable.

Hatch proposed using the lighter and more compact B&H 16mm cameras.  The US Marine Corps went about acquiring every B&H 16mm camera available.  Specifically, the B&H Autoload motion picture camera.

But most of all, the B&H movie camera was loaded via a preloaded magazine – a magazine that had COLOR film.

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A 16mm B&H Autoload motion picture camera, likely similar to that used by Sgt. Genaust on Iwo Jima. It’s preloaded magazines – but with only 50′ of Kodacolor movie film – are to its left. The combat version of the Autoload likely had a front turret with three lenses of differing focal lengths.

When the film is used up, the magazine is simply popped out then swapped with a new one, carried around like magazines would have been for a BAR.

Finally, the Marines had some “new” equipment for a change (i.e., not obsolete) and fitted their style of combat.  But Sgt. Genaust would not only be shooting film.  He will also be shooting bullets.

More to come in Part 2.

June 29, 2010
My two youngest kids at the Marine Corps War Memorial, June 2010.

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Notes

1.  Iwo Jima is now officially referred to by the Japanese government as “Iwo Tou” but for the purposes of this post, I will use Iwo Jima.  A piece of trivia: the name “Iwo Jima” had come from the Japanese themselves but in actuality, the island’s name was “Iwo Tou”.  In Japanese characters, the name is written as 硫黄島.  The third character can be read “shima”, “jima” or “tou”.  Long story short, the Japanese military, in referring to the island many years earlier, misread it as Iwo Jima.  It was really pronounced Iwo Tou.

Just Some Snapshots #14


I have been distracted for this and that, more so as of recent; life does get in the way as they say.

But just some recent snapshots to perhaps brighten your morning…

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Graptopetalum rusbyi, a Sedum.
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My Little Cake Boss’ shoes.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, June 28, 2010
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, June 28, 2010, part of the Smithsonian.
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Graptopetalum rusbyi, a Sedum.
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Echeveria pulidonis bloom.
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The Endeavor.
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Graptopetalum rusbyi, a Sedum.
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A kalanchoe’s new branch dazzles you in pink and orange hues.
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A WWII P-51 Mustang presented in sepia. A P-47 Razorback is in the background.
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A Scaevola – Bondi White
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Our flag and the glory days of backyard aviation.
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An English daisy.

c-10-191Have a great day!

Homemade Meatballs and Spaghetti Sauce


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I wanted to take a better picture but this was all the spaghetti that was left after we ate.

You must all be wondering.

What is a third generation Japanese-American doing trying to make Italian meatballs?

It’s as if you saw John Wayne behind the sushi counter asking if you want yellow tail or halibut.

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Well, the schedule has my kids staying this week for Spring Break…and they are bored.  They are so bored, they again asked, “What are we having for dinner tonight?  The same stuff, Papa?”

Egads.

Made them my killer (but now boring) Fettucine Alfredo with prosciutto and green peas Monday night and beef stroganoff yesterday night (with Jack removing every last mushroom from his plate).

From scratch.  None of this sauce out of a bottle or Hamburger Helper stuff.

So….  My son Jack seems to like meatballs for some reason.  He gets it at Subway and at this Italian restaurant in Belmont Shores.  The last time he did, I told him I’d make it.

So I did.

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Just wanted to throw in a random photo… but that pot does have the basil I keep growing for cooking use. When it’s growing good, I use it as a backdrop for my macro pics. BTW, its a picture of a picture of a picture…of chalk. :-)

I had heard many horror stories about making meatballs.

They were hard like golf balls.

They were just round hamburgers.

So I went to my trusted cooking bible: Cook’s Illustrated.

Their recipes are the Triple T’s: tasty, tried and true and only (old) male buffoons like me can mess them up.  I’ve proven that.

But it turns out their secret ingredient was… buttermilk.  Crazy.  But it worked out wonderfully.  And you used only the egg yolk; using the whole egg does something to the texture, Cook’s Illustrated said.

The ingredients for the meatballs were:

  • 3/4 pound ground chuck (85/15 ground beef can be substituted)
  • 1/4 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • Two slices white bread (with the crusts cut off) cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano (my preference)
  • One minced garlic clove
  • Two tbsp minced parsley (I used the broad leaf Italian parsley to make up for my being Japanese-American)
  • One egg yolk
  • 3/4 tsp table salt
  • Pepper to taste

The ingredients for the spaghetti sauce were:

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • One minced garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 tbsp minced basil
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My rolled meatballs. In hindsight, they should have been a bit bigger… and if you’re wondering what the cardboard egg carton is for, it’s a great (disposable) way to drain your fried foods.

For the meatballs:

  1. Soak the bread in the buttermilk for 10 minutes, crushing the bread occasionally to break it down.  Do not drain.
  2. Combine all the meatball ingredients in large bowl.  (I slice through the mixture using a fork to bring it all together rather than using my hand to mix it.  Keeps the mixture loose.)
  3. Form meatballs (without compressing) about 1-1/2 inches in diameter, rolling mixture in hands.  Set aside.  Complete for remaining mixture.
  4. Heat 1/4″ vegetable oil in 10″ skillet.  (I don’t recommend non-stick.)
  5. Carefully drop meatballs one by one into oil; they should sizzle.  If your skillet is big enough, you may be able to do them in one batch.
  6. Adjusting the flame, keep them sizzling while making sure ALL sides are browned.  Perhaps ten minutes. (I made the mistake of having the heat too high and the meatballs too small.)
  7. Drain.

For the spaghetti sauce:

  1. Drain the oil from the skillet.  Return to range.  Pat away most of the oil BUT leave all the yummy crusty stuff on the bottom.
  2. Heat then pour in about a couple tablespoons olive oil and garlic.  Scrape up all the crusties on the bottom as best you can. Do not burn garlic; no more than 30 seconds.
  3. Carefully pour in the crushed tomatoes.  Continue to scrape up remaining crusties then bring to boil.
  4. Turn down heat then simmer for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add basil and meatballs then simmer for five more minutes.
  6. Adjust seasoning.

They suggested reserving a 1/4 cup of the pasta water.  After draining the al dente spaghetti¹ and returning it to the pot, add back the pasta water and a couple of ladles of the sauce.

Coat then portion out your spaghetti from the still warm pot onto dishes.  Pour a bit more sauce onto pasta, top with three meatballs.  Your kiddies can add Parmesan Reggiano to their liking.

Bon Appetit!

(No, I am not Julia Child.  You are sadly mistaken.)

Note 1: Use ample water; I use more than a gallon for a pound of pasta.  Also add one tablespoon salt immediately before adding pasta.  Stir to make sure they don’t stick together then cover to bring back to boil as soon as you can.  Uncover then rigorously boil for recommended time for al dente.

Good Friday, a Rattlesnake and Game Boy


At times, I feel uncomfortable being of the Buddhist faith.  Perhaps I am not as devout as my grandfather was reported to be but my family is Buddhist.  I guess I feel uncomfortable because so many of you – my friends – are of the Christian faith and cherish it grandly.

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My bud Don during the dedication of the new “ambo” (?) at his church. He is participating in a Good Friday play as I type.

Because I am Buddhist, it is difficult to fathom the importance religiously of today, Good Friday.  One of my most trusted friends of old, Don, partakes in a play each Good Friday at his Catholic church of which he is a most faithful member.  I feel some sadness as I am unable to grasp the deepness of his love for his God or the significance of this day.

But each Good Friday, my mind races back to the Good Friday of 1992.

My oldest daughter was home as there was no school.  She was nine at that time

Playing in her bare feet, she was bitten by a rattler in the front yard of my home.

______________________________

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My first daughter about six hours after the anti-venom was administered, with her intensely pained left foot resting on a pillow.

Yes, my memory is not all that accurate, Robyn, but it was late morning.  I was working in Downtown LA that day when a call came into my office.

When I picked up the phone, it was her mom.  You have to understand her to appreciate this but she said pretty calmly, “I think Robyn got bit on her foot by a snake.”

“Huh?  Whaaat?  Where?  Are there puncture marks?”

“Ummm…  Let me go see,” she calmly says.  Yes, she did.  OMG!  Didn’t she check already?

After a minute, she comes back and matter-of-factly says, “Umm, yes, there’s two little holes on her toe…”  It was as if she was telling me Robyn got straight A’s again.  Very routine for Robyn.

“Call 911!” I said quite loudly then hung up.  I ran to my boss’ office and said yelled, “I think my daughter got bit by a rattlesnake!  Bye!”

Did I mention I was the opposite of my ex-wife?  I got pretty “animated”.  It was different than being told she got straight A’s again.

_____________________________

Remembering this was before inexpensive cell phones, I raced home.  It took about an hour to drive the 25 miles, even back then.  When I got there, no one was there.  But a neighbor told me the paramedics took her to Brea Community Hospital.  “Huh?  Brea Community?  Where’s that?!”  No Google Maps, either.

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After the anti-venom drip is started, the waiting begins. Her mom brought along her favorite yellow blankie.

If I recall correctly, I got to the hospital about two hours after the call.  Apparently, the paramedics were going to medivac her when they located this hospital with anti-venom in the neighboring county.

It was the darnedest sight.  Here were these two pretty rugged-looking paramedics in Emergency, rubbing their huge hands together like if they were outside in the snow.  Briefly, her mom explained yes, it was a rattler.  The doctor wasn’t sure what anti-venom to administer at first but after calling a specialist in Arizona, they decided on the anti-venom.  However, the anti-venom coagulates at the top of a suspension liquid in these tiny glass tubes.  The paramedics were rolling these tubes in their hands to warm and melt/dissolve the anti-venom into the liquid.

My daughter, a pretty tough kid, was just laying on the gurney quite bravely.  She didn’t whimper, complain or show fear.  She would be that way for the rest of the night – well, except for a split second.  In fact, the only time she would show emotion was when she pummeled her younger brother – frequently.  He apparently deserved it.

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I believe this was taken nearing midnight. Those faint lines going up her ankle were drawn by the nurse at certain times to mark the spread of the toxins and swelling. You can see the effects of the snake bite; it was really purple.

There was cause for alarm, however.  The first responders were able to locate the snake in the strawberry plants then lopped off its head with a shovel.  But it was a baby rattler.  For those of you who don’t know, baby rattlers are unpredictable in how much venom they would inject for a kill.  Luckily, it had killed Mickey Mouse a bit earlier (or maybe it was Minnie), thereby somewhat depleting its venom supply; you could see the bulge in its body from the mouse (Yes, they put it into a glass jar to show the doctor.  Yes, we kept in the freezer for awhile as a souvenir.  I even took it to show my boss.  Who would believe a nutsy story like this?).  Plus, Robyn was a small girl.  Smart, but small.

They began the drip as soon as possible… but by around 11 pm, you could clearly see the toxins marching its way up her leg, discoloring her skin as it spread.  The swelling got real bad, too.

Then, the news.  The nurse said if the swelling doesn’t subside by around midnight, the doctor will have to make an incision in her calf to relieve the swelling.  Further, they did not know if there would be any permanent tissue or nerve damage.

Talk about feeling helpless…  All we could do was wait.  By this time, her skin began to turn an ugly shade of grey.

Then for the first time that day, Robyn understandably let out a tear or two.

So did I.

___________________________________

Fortunately, about an hour afterwards, the toxins stopped its march up her leg.  The anti-venom was finally taking effect.  Soon thereafter, the swelling began to subside, slowly but surely.

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Robyn in the morning chowing down on one of her favorite foods at that time – bacon. Mine are much better, of course, fried up perfectly.

By late morning – and while the skin was still an ugly shade of grey – a physical therapist came in.  Oddly, she was the owner of an interior decorating store at the base of our hill; she had sold us all our new furniture and interior stuff like wallpaper and window treatments five years earlier.

She had Robyn get out of bed then try to walk.  Although she had a bad limp from the pain and tenderness, the therapist said there was no nerve or tissue damage to her foot or leg.  Whew.

And the Game Boy?

I thought she earned it for being a tough kid so I got her one.  She got pretty good at it, too.

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The new Game Boy… the start of endless fighting between her and her younger brother who she beat up all the time… and who now benches 400 pounds.

Oh…  Although Robyn’s name wasn’t mentioned, her mom told me later that she made the news on KFWB news radio.

They didn’t mention her new Game Boy, though, or how brave she was.

Darned media.

Short Stories about World War II. Two Countries. One Family

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