Battle Rats Title


HILL 362A: During the battle for Iwo, this heavily defended hill complex was one of the toughest nuts to crack. The hill is the second highest feature on the island next to Mount Suribachi and Nishi Ridge. Envision a small shopping center made of rocks and sandstone, with countless entrances and exits. It’s strategic value was that it served as the west anchor of Lt. General Kuribayashi’s main defensive line. Inside the hill are five tunnel systems, four of which are inter-connected. Hill 362A is one of the most difficult spots to get access to on the island today as it’s well concealed from the tall brush that lines West road (it’s true location can only been seen from the air).

One might not be aware, but inside one of the many tunnel entrances are the remains of combat cameraman Sgt. Bill Genaust. Genaust shot the color film footage of the 2nd Flag Raising, which became the iconic image for the 7th War Loan drive – and of the Marine Corps. Genaust was following the 28th Marines (of the 5th Marine Division) in their on-going fight to secure Hill 362A. As the Marines came across yet another entrance, a rifleman asked for a light to better guide them into the complex – Genaust being a blooded combat veteran stepped forward with his flash light to lead the way. As the Sergeant entered the tunnel, the report of a Japanese machine gun was heard – Genaust and the Marine/s were cut down, and the entrance was ordered closed. JPAC have recently made a series of trips to the island in search of Genaust, yet this is quite the herculean task for with the hill being made of sandstone – the loose earth that was blown-in to close the entrance has settled over the last 64 years since the 1945 battle – so the search continues, with the hope that one day his remains, and the remains of those with him can be found and returned.

Hill 362A has been of great personal interest to me, because of the key part it played in the battle for Iwo, and as the location of combat cameraman Sgt. Bill Genaust… After careful study of the battles that raged around the hill complex, the Battle Rats were able to plot a course that would lead them to what they surmised to be the nerve center of the hill complex. The route chosen took us about 2 hours to wade through a sea of cactus that surrounded the rear of the hill. Once at the hill’s base, the Rats began to find signs of battle – some of the most impressive were the numerous impact marks in the earthen walls of 362A made by the 75mm guns of Marine Sherman tanks (some of the shells did not explode and can still be seen embedded in the sand stone) to a blown section of M4 Sherman tank tread. Atop the hill were found a complete set of unopened WWII Marine canned field rations.

Now the task at hand was to find an entrance, while the first two that the Rats encountered were blown (or caved-in), the third was still open. To date the Battle Rats are the first film crew to film inside the elusive hill/tunnel complex of Hill 362A. As they entered, it was not without some reservation as the ceiling and walls were all of loose sand stone was coming down on and around them as they made their way through the maze of tunnels.

As expected there were several levels, the rats explored three, with each being interconnected to another seemingly endless passage way. During their exploration of the complex the Rats found discarded personal items of the Japanese defenders such as Bakelite rice bowls, beer and sake bottles, ammunition and hand grenade crates, and small ration tins that once held the likes of pickles and crab meat. Several broken entrenching tools lined one uncompleted passage way – while venturing down into this lower chamber the hand carved earthen stairs gave way, sending the host down into the bottom. With the verbal guidance of Mastriano, I made his way up and out of the “pit”. The most impressive find was an officer’s quarters, which included a crude officer’s bed and chair fashioned from wooden ammunition crates, and his uniform – which you see in the one hour Iwo Jima episode.

With more time, we would have made a more extensive search of the tunnels, yet with the 118 degree heat, foul “sulfur” air, and a hard departure time the rats had to leave and make their way North to the Bloody Gorge and Kitano Point.

  1. Bill Patterson says:

    great show, as a veteran and a surveyor, I would love to make this trip someday and help in locating our Marines.
    I believe that Sgt. Genaust and the others should be brought home.

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Military Channel | Wednesday, March 3rd at 10 PM ET check your local listings | TRIO Media Group