NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

July 16, 2013

A show of respect for fallen Marines

As I See It
Sara-Anne Eames

---- — 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.

The Marines in the search party had arrived on a C-130 and were in formal blue dress. The bodies were put in flagged caskets and were loaded into the C-130 to be brought back to the United States. As the men lifted the caskets and took them to the plane, a voice sang “From the Halls of Montezuma” in English. There was Tokarei, who was taught the Marine song at the age of 17 by the Marines who were stationed on the island in 1942. He had remembered the words all those years and wanted to show respect for the men who had died.

The men were buried with full honor at the Arlington National Cemetery after their families had been notified of their location.

The following men I would like to remember and I hope that they have found peace:

Sgt. Clyde Thomason, the first enlisted Marine recipient of the Medal of Honor; Cpl. Mason O. Yarborough; field musician 1st Class Vernon L. Castle; Cpl. I. B. Earles; Cpl. Daniel A. Gaston; Cpl. Harris J. Johnson; Cpl. Kenneth K. Kunkel; Cpl. Edward Maciejewski; Cpl. Robert B Pearson; PFC William A. Gallagher; Pfc. Ashley W. Hicks; Pfc. Kenneth M. Montgomery; Pfc. Norman W. Mortensen; Pfc. John E. Vandenburgh; Pvt. Carlyle O. Larson; Pvt. Space Robert B. Maulding; Pvt. Franklin M. Knoland; and Pvt. Charles A. Selby.

If anyone is interested in checking further, you can bring it up on a HTTP:// WWW.youtube.com/watch pu ?v= C6F FvZ pm 3g. A movie was made in 1943, “Gung Ho! The story of Carlson’s Raiders.” You may also pull up “Makin Island” on the Internet. It’s interesting to see the number of variations in different stories.

It is my pleasure to honor these Marines in some small way.

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Sara-Anne Eames lives in Newburyport.