15
Sat, Jun

A Memorial Day Salute to Our Brave WW II Servicemen

VOICES

TRIBUTE - There is no greater sacrifice that one can offer than their life. Memorial Day honors the men and women who have given all for their country and for freedom. This Memorial Day, we highlight just a few of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II.

Honoring the Brave

Private George Watson

Private Watson was the first African American to receive the Army’s second-highest award—the Distinguished Service Cross—in World War II. In 1997, he was one of seven African Americans awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton. No African Americans received the Medal of Honor in the years immediately after the war.

1st Lieutenant Alexander Bonnyman Jr.

A Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipient for his bravery during the Battle of Tarawa, Bonnyman was buried in a battlefield cemetery on tiny Betio Island along with dozens of fellow Marines. The impromptu burial ground’s location was lost, however.

Private Earl J. Keating

Keating, assigned to the Anti-Tank Company, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division, died under heavy Japanese attack while his unit defended a position that would be known as Huggins Roadblock. He was buried there with Private John H. Klopp, also of New Orleans, near where the men fell.

Sergeant Roland Ehlers

Roland Ehlers and his brother, Walter, planned to meet on the beach at Normandy after the D-Day invasion. The two, inseparable, never saw each other again.

1st Lieutenant Leonard Isacks

Marine 1st Lt. Leonard Isacks sustained fatal injuries on the beach at Iwo Jima in February 1945, when a mortar shell hit his foxhole. Isacks, a New Orleans native, earned a posthumous Purple Heart award for his bravery; he also left behind a wife and three kids.

Private 1st Class Anthony Sconza

Marie Sconza had little idea of the brutal combat her son, Anthony, saw in the war. Anthony, just 20, died in action during the Italian Campaign in 1944, after seeing some of the war’s fiercest and deadliest fighting. 

The Crew of the USS Tang

On her final patrol, the USS Tang sent an unprecedented 13 enemy ships to the bottom. Tragically, as she fired her last torpedo of the patrol, the torpedo broached and began to boomerang back towards the Tang.

Corporal Germaine Laville

Germaine Laville was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana, the oldest of seven children. She graduated from Louisiana State University where she was a member of Alpha Chi Omega as well as a number of campus organizations and was beloved by her classmates.\

Corporal Thomas "Cotton" Jones

One of the costliest amphibious operations that year was the invasion of Peleliu, a small, but heavily-defended island in the southwestern Pacific. Nearly 10,000 Army troops and Marines were killed or wounded in the battle for Peleliu. Among the dead was Corporal Thomas Paul "Cotton" Jones.

Seaman 1st Class Johnnie David Hutchins

The Congressional Medal of Honor is this nation's highest military honor. Fewer than 500 Medals of Honor have been awarded for actions performed during World War II.

Yeoman 2nd Class Frederick Ruckert, Jr.

Frederick Ruckert was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ruckert of New Orleans. He was serving as a Coast Guardsman aboard LST 167 near the island of Vella Lavella when Japanese aircraft dropped two bombs on his ship.

1st Lieutenant Augustus Hamilton, Jr.

Hamilton was flying top cover for the flight leader, Captain Allan Farrow, who just completed a bombing run on a rail yard, when Hamilton and his wingman were jumped by over 20 Focke Wulf 190 fighters.

1st Lieutenant Gerald W. Johnston

First Lt. Gerald W. Johnston’s B-17 was shot down by German fighters on January 14, 1945. He was last seen at the controls of the plane, having told the rest of the crew to bail out.

Chief Radio Operator Louis Taix

Merchant Marine Louis Taix of New Orleans, Louisiana, was lost at sea when the SS Nicarao was sunk by a German submarine U-751 on the night of May 15, 1942, in the Bahama Islands. Louis was the Chief Radio Operator for the ship.

Private 1st Class Darrel "Happy" Neil

Darrel "Happy" Neil was born in 1922 in Mulberry, Kansas. When he was 20 years old, he married Wilma Harvey. Four months later, he was shipped overseas. He served with the 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division.

As we commemorate Memorial Day, let us take a moment to honor these brave individuals and countless others who have given their lives in service to our country. Their stories remind us of the true cost of freedom and the enduring legacy of their courage and sacrifice. We owe them our deepest gratitude and the commitment to remember their sacrifices, not just on Memorial Day, but every day.