Looking at these newly-digitized film images from the battle of Iwo Jima, it’s hard to believe they are 75 years old. The amount of detail they reveal about the bloodiest battle in Marine history is unprecedented.
But perhaps the most amazing images are the most personal.
One particular sequence shows the dedication of three cemeteries around the island honoring the more than 6,000 Americans killed during battle. In the final frames (at about the 12:41 mark), two Marines kneel before a grave marker accompanied by a dog.
There’s nothing about these images that looks dated or old-fashioned, in the way that theatrical films from that era may look. It’s timeless.
Greg Wilsbacher, Curator of Newsfilm and Military Collections, University of South Carolina, came across this clip and others while working on a project to digitize these films, in a partnership with the History Division of the Marine Corps.
Wilsbacher explains, More than 50 Marine combat cameramen operated across the eight square miles of Iwo Jima during the battle, which stretched from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945. Many shot still images, but at least 26 shot motion pictures. Three of these Marine cinematographers were killed in action.
Sergeant William Genaust was one of those. He captured color footage of the iconic flag-raising on the top of Mt. Suribachi, while Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped the more famous black and white image.
Genaust shot at least 25 reels – just over an hour of film – before he was killed, roughly halfway through the campaign.
Wilsbacher writes, After the battle, the Americans buried their dead in temporary cemeteries, awaiting transportation back to the U.S. The film segment just before the graveside scene shows a service honoring the Americans of all backgrounds who had bled and died together.
At that service, Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, the Marines’ first-ever Jewish chaplain, gave a eulogy that has become one of the Marine Corps’ most treasured texts. Noting the diversity of the dead, Gittelsohn said, “Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor … together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color.”
Gittelsohn called their collective sacrifice “the highest and purest democracy.”
Here at Nine Line, we honor the collective sacrifice of those who have served – and continue to serve this nation 24/7. We don’t need a holiday or an anniversary to do it, but we do like to make special commemorative designs now and then. This month we honor the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima and the service of all members of the United States Armed forces past and present.
The raising of the flag on Iwo Jima shows brave men united under one flag. As on that day 75 years ago, today we stand united as one nation, evermore.
Honor their memory and keep their Legacy alive...because our freedom is not free, it is earned by the blood of Patriots. https://nine.li/BattleOfIwoJima