Thursday, November 13, 2003


Letter reunites former Marines

published Nov. 11, 2003

Gus Rowe located 61 years later by a man he saved during attack on Pearl Harbor


Keno resident Gus Rowe recently received a letter from someone he hadn't seen in more than 60 years.

Inside the envelope was an old photograph of George Gauthier, a Marine who had been stationed at Pearl Harbor at the time of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by Imperial Japan.

Gauthier, who lives in upstate New York, knew the photo was taken by a photographer named Gus Rowe, and that the photographer had saved his life during the attack on Pearl Harbor. But he had no idea where to find Rowe after all these years.

Gauthier checked the archives at his local leatherneck club, and found three former Marines named Gus Rowe.

He wrote to the one in Keno, and found his man.

Rowe had long since forgotten that he took the photo and given a copy to Gauthier. But when he saw it, he knew it was one of his.

Rowe also forgot he had saved Gauthier's life.

When the attack on Pearl Harbor began, Rowe, a combat photographer, could not get to his post for about nine hours.

Along the way, Rowe came upon Gauthier, who had broken his foot. Rowe carried Gauthier across a parade ground within the Pearl Harbor Base to sick bay.

At some point, he also took a photo of Gauthier.

Gauthier recently sent Rowe a copy of the photo, and thanked Rowe for saving his life.

"He just wanted to know if I was the one who took that picture and helped him," Rowe said. "He wanted to thank me."

Rowe, 84, has lived in Keno for the past 11 years. Before that he lived in San Jose where he worked in the cannery industry. He also worked as a wedding photographer.

"It was remarkable that he found me," Rowe said.

Rowe joined the Marines in July 1940, and served through February 1946. He never took a leave during that period, he said.

Rowe arrived at Pearl Harbor in December 1940, and was still stationed there at the time of the attack by Japan.

On Feb. 19, 1945, Rowe was one of the photographers to land on the beaches of Iwo Jima, a tiny but strategically important island 660 miles south of Tokyo.

By February 1945, U.S. troops had recaptured most of the territory taken by the Japanese in 1941 and 1942. Still uncaptured was Iwo Jima, which became a primary objective in American plans to bring the Pacific campaign to a successful conclusion, according to a National Park Service Web site.

Rowe said he had photographed Admirals Halsey and Nimitz, but it was San Francisco staff photographer Joe Rosenthal who captured the image of the afternoon flag raising on top of Mount Suribachi.

The photo of the American flag being hoisted into place by five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman won a Pulitzer prize for Rosenthal.

Rowe, meanwhile, knows his own photos are treasured by countless veterans of World War II.

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By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
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