Editor’s note: This article, written by Leon Bogdan, was originally published in the Press Enterprise on Sunday, Nov. 10. We purchased the story at a nominal cost because it showcases a Bloomsburg University student. BUnow would like to note, at Mr. Laubach’s request, that traditionally Marines are referred to as Marines, not soldiers.
BLOOMSBURG — Dean Laubach never served in the military, but finds satisfaction in helping families preserve the stories of their own wartime heroes.
“It’s sobering and tremendously emotional,” Laubach says of his research on U.S. Marines who served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.
“It’s important to the families to keep these memories alive. And unbelievably rewarding,” he said.
Laubach, 23, a Bloomsburg University student from town, started a research and consulting service online. It’s focused especially on those who served during the Battle of Iwo Jima in
1945. Some 7,000 of 70,000 Marines died in the fierce combat that lasted 36 days.
“The Japanese had about 18,000 soldiers there and an intricate tunnel system that stretched for miles on the island, alongwith multi-tiered entrenchments, making it a very difficult battle,” he explained.
He has already done research for 25 families around the country. He has also assisted Fox News anchor Martha MacCullum in tracking down records for a book about war in the South Pacific.
The 75th anniversary of Iwo Jima is being observed on Feb. 19, and Laubach anticipates hearing from others interested in details from the epic battle that ended with Marines raising the American flag on Mount Siribachi.
Personal ties to battle
While Laubach digs into combat records at requests of family members, his interest in that famous battle is personal as well.
His great-uncle, Col. Leland Swindler, was a full U.S. Marine colonel during the battle, and Laubach has been able to trace some Marines who served under him.
At an early age, Laubach says he was given a war history book about a Marine unit in the South Pacific as a gift.
He read it “cover to cover” and got hooked.
As he grew up, he credits local Marine veterans like the late Gene Hamilton of
Bloomsburg, who served with the 1st U.S. Marine Corps Division and recently died at the age of 96.
“He was an inspiration to me. I felt very fortunate about the time I was able to meet and speak with him,” Laubach says.
Laubach even arranged to attend a reunion of Iwo Jima survivors that was held in Arlington, Virginia.
There are only about 300 remaining survivors of the battle.
Marine ‘family bond’
All of his research is compiled digitally and sent to families on a computer thumbdrive, making it easier to navigate and download for family albums.
His website, CorpsConnectionsllc.com, is still a work in progress, but it serves as a tribute to the fallen and their families.
Its tagline, “For Their Past, For Our Future,” emphasizes the sacrifices of military combat with hopes of educating future generations.
Laubach charges a fee for his work based on the quantity of research involved and costs of accessing some records.
He even hopes to expand his work into perhaps lecturing one day to groups interested in that pivotal part of military history.
But even as a cash-strapped college student, the work is less about the money and more a labor of love and respect.
“The more you look into some of these stories and are lucky enough to speak with some of these veterans and their relatives, you learn that the Marine Corps is really a family. A close family bond exists within the Corps,” he says.
Leon Bogdan can be reached at 570-784-2121, extension 1307, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image: Bloomsburg University student Dean Laubach has turned his research of World War II combat records of U.S. Marines into an online business. Photo by Leon Bogdan.