NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 16, 2013

A show of respect for fallen Marines

We read so much in the newspapers about our veterans waiting for months, sometimes several years to receive their benefits. Also, there are veterans who remain homeless and are waiting to find jobs and housing. How sad when you read the following story that our veterans stand waiting, when this story offers their sacrifices.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Marines, as my brother was a drill sergeant during the ‘50s, stationed in Japan, training American Marines to fight in Korea.

There was a story on the national news several weeks ago that I listened to and was in tears. My neighbor then sent an email on June 24 and it was a film of the same story.

It was a tale about 19 Marines killed on an island (defending against the Japanese) in the South Pacific. On Aug. 17, 1942, a force of Marine Raiders came ashore on Makin Island, in the West Pacific Ocean (an atoll of the Gilbert Islands, which had been occupied by the Japanese).

Two American subs named the Argonaut and the Nautilus approached the island and unloaded 122 Marines. The mission was to assault the Japanese who had seized the island on Dec. 9, 1941. They were to keep the Japanese troops quite busy so they couldn’t reinforce troops under assault by Americans on Guadalcanal Island.

One of the Carlson’s Raiders rifles went off accidentally, alerting the Japanese, who threw grenades, flamethrowers, used machine guns and firepower. Some Marines drowned when the rafts overturned and 100 of the 122 men made it back to the submarines.

Britaritari natives were asked to bury the 19 dead Marines so that the Japanese wouldn’t find them. In December 1999, 57 years after the raid, the Defense Department Central Identification Lab in Hawaii identified the 19 Marines who were killed in 1942.

The story of locating the burial sites brought tears to my eyes. An elderly gentleman in his 70s who was a teenager at the time of this conflict had seen where the bodies were buried. His name was Tokarei. He spoke no English but led the Marines to the gravesite. Upon recovering the bodies, the Marines found that the men had been carefully buried with their helmets on, their dog tags around their necks and their rifles on their chests.

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