75 years after Iwo Jima, UofSC film archive reveals information, connects generations

A little research by MIRC staff connected this grave marker at Iwo Jima in 1945 with family descendants in Chicago.

A little research by MIRC staff connected this grave marker at Iwo Jima in 1945 with family descendants in Chicago.

The Battle for Iwo Jima, which began 75 years ago this Wednesday, Feb. 19, typically brings one image to mind — the raising of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi.

While that image captures the sense of hard-fought victory, new discoveries and details about the Marine Corps are made every day at UofSC Libraries Moving Image Research Collections.


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The Iwo Jima films, part of a large collection of more than 10,000 reels shot by Marines between World War II and the 1970s, came to MIRC two years ago through a conservation partnership with the United States Marine Corps History Division in Quantico, Virginia.

Greg Wilsbacher, Curator of Newsfilm and Military Collections at MIRC, and his team have digitized more than 80 reels of film Marine Corps cameramen shot during the five-week battle to seize the island from the Imperial Japanese Army. Since a staff member watches every frame of a film on a large screen monitor as it’s scanned, the process has revealed some never-before-seen images at Iwo Jima — and resulted in some connections made between generations.

Wilsbacher notes a scene of two Marines kneeling with a dog before a grave marker at a temporary cemetery on the island. Wilsbacher discerned the number 322 on the grave marker and reached out to the History Division, which linked the number to Pfc. Ernest Langbeen. Wilsbacher located members of Langbeen’s family and made them aware of the recently identified footage. Details about Langbeen were added to the film website, as is done by MIRC staff when new information about the films is discovered — often by the public.

All members of the public are invited to visit the freely-accessible U.S. Marine Corps Films Collection at http://bit.ly/uofscusmcfilms to watch more than 1,500 of the films that have been digitized. These films are keyword searchable and can be browsed by decade, Division, Regiment and Squadron. Films are uploaded to the site as they are digitized and described.

Additionally, viewers are highly encouraged to share details they may have about individual films — battles, names of people in footage, locations and more — since a major component of the project is its moderated crowdsourced descriptions.

For more information, contact Nicole Carrico at carrico@sc.edu or 803-777-2115.