Bob Bolus has a gold nameplate on his office desk that says "President" and a panoramic view of a junkyard. Above the filing cabinet there's an old World War II artillery map, and on a recent afternoon, Bolus stood inches away, peering deeply into its contour lines, searching.
"There it is," he said, as if pointing to an 'X' on a treasure map. "That's Hill 362A."
It wasn't much of a landmark. Hill 362A is a squat, unremarkable ridge, 362 feet at its highest point, on the northwest corner of Iwo Jima. Like much of the island, it was bombed, shot, burned and generally blasted to bits in 1945, when U.S. forces fought to drive out the Japanese from a network of tunnels and caves that crisscrosses its base. Entombed somewhere in those passageways, among the rocks and the rubble and the unexploded ordnance, are the remains of a Marine Corps sergeant and cameraman named William H. Genaust.
Bolus is not related to Genaust, but for the past two years he has been fixated with the Marine's fate. He has lobbied generals, politicians and ambassadors on Genaust's behalf. He has traveled to Hill 362A and drafted surveyors, archivists, military historians and forensic anthropologists to his cause. Bolus is resolute on recovering Genaust's remains from his anonymous grave. He calls this "my mission."
"He belongs at Arlington," Bolus said. "And I'm not going to stop until he's home."
Bolus's persistence has prompted Pentagon officials to begin consultations with the Japanese government about a recovery operation. It would be the first time the United States has searched for missing service members on Iwo Jima since returning control of it to Japan in 1968.
But perhaps what is most unusual to the Pentagon is that someone who is neither family nor a fellow service member has become so engrossed with a long-dead serviceman's remains.
"I believe he's the first," said Larry Greer, a spokesman for the Defense Department's Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office."He has demonstrated a lot of energy and a lot of commitment to this."
Bolus, 64, is the owner of Bolus Truck Parts, Scooter's Hot Dawg Hut and a slew of other business ventures in Scranton, Pa. Over the years, he has been a Democrat, a Republican, a trucking tycoon, a felon, a race car driver, a philanthropist and a failed mayoral candidate, among other things. Then, one Sunday morning in February 2005, Bolus read an article about Genaust in Parade magazine, and he was seized.
"I must have read it three or four times," he said. "I just couldn't believe that the man who gave us that image had been left behind."
Genaust was among the Marines and journalists who climbed Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima's highest point, on Feb. 23, 1945, four days after U.S. forces landed.
Genaust, who was trained to fight -- and film -- at Quantico Marine Corps Base, captured footage for training videos, propaganda efforts and other military purposes. On that day, Genaust went up Suribachi to capture a flag-raising.
At the summit, he stood with a friend, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, cranking his Bell & Howell camera as a makeshift flagpole was heaved into the wind.
Rosenthal took the photograph that would become the iconic image of the war -- and the Marine Corps -- and win him a Pulitzer Prize that year.
Within weeks, Genaust's color footage appeared on newsreels and in movie theaters across the United States. When skeptics claimed that the Rosenthal photograph was staged, Genaust's recording was used to confirm its authenticity.
But Genaust never saw the film. Nine days after the flag-raising, he was killed, shot dead in a cave on Hill 362A.
His Latest ChallengeBolus Trucks Parts is a graveyard of rusting hulks and cannibalized diesel engines along the highway outside Scranton. "Bolus for Mayor" signs still decorate the sides of two freight trailers at the back of the junkyard, along with the campaign slogan: "Common Sense and Accountability." Bolus has lived in Scranton all his life. He came from a trucking family and started a towing operation after a brief stint in the Army in 1960. By the 1980s, he had built one of the largest hauling operations in Pennsylvania. But his trucking empire ground to a halt in 1991 when he was caught buying a stolen Caterpillar loader. Bolus served four months of work release. The conviction has nagged him ever since, most recently when he was deemed ineligible to serve as mayor, losing multiple court battles along the way. "I've been on the top, and I've been on the bottom, too," he said.
The endeavor to bring Genaust to Arlington National Cemetery is Bolus's new fight. To him, Genaust is a neglected hero with whom he associates his earliest patriotic inklings. "I don't know how many times I saw that image of the flag-raising at the Saturday matinees as a little kid," he said. "Every time I see it go up, I get a chill."
The postwar Scranton of Bolus's childhood was a different, more perfect place, when families of all nationalities seemed to share a single flag-loving American culture, and, to him, Genaust is the embodiment of that. "We've lost that camaraderie," Bolus said. "Look at all these computers now. Everyone is so goal-oriented and money-oriented."
To Bolus, Genaust's sacrifice is rivaled only by the injustice of his unceremonious end. And this is the wrong he wants to set right. "Sgt. Genaust knows that Bob Bolus is coming for him," he is fond of saying.
After reading the article on Genaust, Bolus loaded up on World War II books and became steeped in Iwo Jima lore. Then he started making calls. He found out that the United States and Japan hold a ceremony on the island commemorating the battle, and in March, Bolus got permission to travel there with a group of veterans and their families. He met three-star generals, diplomats, Iwo Jima veterans and even the grandson of Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, who commanded Japanese forces during the battle. He talked about Genaust to anyone who would listen.
A sympathetic U.S. officer dispatched a group of Marines to take Bolus to Hill 362A. Access to the area was restricted, but Bolus went anyway. He pushed a path through thorny brush, tracing the route Genaust's 28th Marine Regiment probably followed March 4, 1945.
Genaust and another Marine had entered a cave that day along the base of 362A, looking for Japanese holdouts. The Marines' flashlights gave them away, and they were easy targets. When the shooting stopped, Genaust's unit demolished the cave's entrance. The opening was later sealed. Genaust was never seen again.
A hand-held global-positioning satellite device led Bolus to the base of 362A, but it was Genaust, he said, who was telling him where to go. "I'm probably the least superstitious guy in the world," he said. "But he's guiding me."
Bolus said his team has narrowed Genaust's location to a 150-yard area. "Two weeks," Bolus said. "I'd have a team and equipment ready in two weeks if they'd let me back on that island." Money is no obstacle, Bolus said, estimating that he has spent more than $20,000 on the Iwo Jima trip and the consultants he has hired.
Renewed interest in Iwo Jima generated by Rosenthal's death in August and the release of two Clint Eastwood films, "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima," didn't help Bolus as much as he'd hoped. He's still waiting for Eastwood to call him back.
There have been other obstacles. For one, the U.S. military does not allow private citizens to disinter its dead, especially on foreign soil. That responsibility lies with the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, and it has a long queue of servicemen to search for, mostly from the war in Vietnam.
"We have thousands of cases being actively investigated," said Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, a spokeswoman for the command. Genaust is an "open case" for the agency, she said, but one of many. "We can't quantify any one sacrifice as greater than any other."
But Bolus's research and lobbying efforts led the Pentagon to begin a study last summer into the possible whereabouts of Genaust's remains, according to Larry Greer of the prisoner of war office. The agency is analyzing the 362A site to determine whether other remains could also be recovered there and has consulted with the Japanese Embassy, U.S. diplomats and the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command.
"We have to be sure we have a reasonable opportunity to conduct a legitimate investigation," Greer said.
Keeping the Vision AliveGenaust would be 100 this year; he was 38 when he died. He and his late wife, Adelaide, had no children. A few months after his death, she received a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts on his behalf.
"He was one of the most decent and honorable men I've ever known," said Tedd Thomey, who met Genaust on a battleship en route to Iwo Jima. Thomey later worked at the San Francisco Chronicle with Rosenthal and wrote a memoir about Rosenthal and Genaust's moment on Suribachi. In 1995, he helped add a plaque honoring Genaust to the U.S. memorial atop the mountain.
"He deserves to be at Arlington," said Thomey, 86, who lives in Long Beach, Calif. "That would be my wish."
A memorial to Genaust also decorates the American Legion Post in Effingham, Ill., thanks to his cousin Billy G. Genaust, who has handed out about 1,400 souvenir pens depicting the flag-raising scene, lest anyone forget his cousin's role. "Everyone in our area knows about him," he said.
"Mr. Bolus said he was going to bring him back," said Genaust, 75, a retired state trooper. "I think that would be the greatest thing."