Military history enthusiasts like me spend countless hours watching documentaries. I find everything about them intriguing. However, ever since I became interested in collecting WWII firearms, I found myself spending more time looking closely at what the soldiers were carrying than listening to the commentary.
Somewhere during this process, I happened to notice something that had been right in front of me the whole time, but, for some reason, had simply not caught my eye. There were small portions of footage in which markings and names could be seen on soldiers’ gear – helmet, ammo pouch, shirt, jacket etc. It was then that my curiosity really piqued. Was there some way that I could possibly positively identify one of these soldiers? This was the beginning of a very long labor of love that continues to this day.
To accomplish this task, I soon realized that I needed three key elements – footage that was verifiable as being from a specific conflict, the military divisions involved in that conflict and, most importantly, a definitive list of the soldiers in those divisions.
Although limited by the quality of publicly available footage and the extensive time required to compile definitive unit rosters, the following represents the current progress I have made in pursuing this goal. It is important to note that the footage is marked as either Confirmed which indicates that family members and/or the veteran are certain that the individual in the footage has been positively identified, Probable which indicates that family members are almost certain that the individual has been positively identified, Pending which indicates that family members have been contacted, but no decision has been made yet on the footage or Research which indicates that efforts to contact the family are being made.
The 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Division were involved in the Battle of Iwo Jima. In locating the unit rosters for these division, I referenced The Spearhead – The World War II history of the 5th Marine Division which provided comprehensive information for the 5th Marine Division. However, although there are similar publications for the 3rd (The Third Marine Division – ISBN-10: 0898391105) and 4th (The Fourth Marine Division in World War II) Marine Divisions, they only provided information on officers, medal recipients and wounded/killed in action. This posed a huge problem.
After extensively searching in vain for comprehensive 3rd and 4th Marine Division unit rosters, I had no choice but to create my own based on the USMC Muster Rolls from the National Archives. Muster Rolls were published the first month of every quarter. Given that the Battle of Iwo Jima commenced on February 19, 1945, the January 1945 Muster Roll was the best choice.
Through countless, tedious hours of reviewing and compiling this information, I finally created complete unit rosters for the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions. These rosters were the crucial components in continuing this quest.
Select Marine Division insignia to view footage