July 26, 2007, - 2:31 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
You’ve heard of all the high-profile Prisoners of War/Missing In Action soldiers, like Army Sgt. Keith “Matt” Maupin–missing for 1.5 years, so far, in Iraq.
But did you know that there are some 88,000 U.S. troops still missing from World War II and other conflicts? One of those is one of the soldiers who filmed while others held the flag in the famous Joe Rosenthal photo on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima. America has a special team looking for these captive or fallen heroes:
IWO JIMA, Japan – U.S. searchers looking for the remains of the Marine who filmed the famous flag raising over Iwo Jima say they have found two possible sites and recommend a larger group excavate them, officials said.
“Our investigation has been very successful,” said U.S. Army Maj. Sean Stinchon. The search team spent 10 days on the island surveying and digging.
“We found two caves and tunnels. We will recommend a follow-up team be brought in to use heavy equipment,” he said.
He said the team did not find the remains of Sgt. William 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,” Stinchon said on June 27.
The seven-man team, including an anthropologist, focused mainly on surveying Hill 362A, where 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 ‚Äî in nearly 60 years.
The team arrived on Iwo Jima on June 17 and began slashing its way through thick, thorny brush on the island’s interior in search of the area where Genaust is believed to have been killed.
A combat photographer with the 28th Marines, Genaust filmed the raising of the flag atop Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, standing just feet away from Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal as he took the photograph that won a Pulitzer Prize and came to symbolize the war in the Pacific.
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.
About 88,000 U.S. service members are listed as missing from World War II, and JPAC conducts searches worldwide to find them.
Iwo Jima — inhabited only by a small contingent of Japanese troops ‚Äî 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 United States took the volcanic island on March 26, 1945, after a 31-day battle that pitted 100,000 U.S. forces against 21,200 Japanese. About 6,821 Americans were killed; only 1,033 Japanese survived.
Of 82 Medals of Honor awarded to Marines in World War II, 26 were won on Iwo Jima.
Investigators rely heavily on tips and information from relatives, citizens, and witnesses to find our missing heroes. They also take DNA swabs from relatives to match potential remains.
Contact the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.
Contact the Defense POW/MIA Personnel Office, which oversees policy and has a family support team.
Help bring our brave soldiers home.
Stay tuned for my review, later today, of the Best Movie of the Year, “Rescue Dawn,” about one of the fortunate, heroic soldiers, Dieter Dengler, who was able to escape a Viet Cong POW camp in Laos and make it back home alive.
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