Friday, August 21, 2015

Killed During the Battle of Guam

During a recent Lange Cousins Reunion, Aunt Katherine asked me to look into her father's family as she knew very little about them. She gave me the name of her father and who she believed his parents to be and off I went. Along the way I "met" many interesting ancestors of Aunt Katherine and even a few heroes. Today, I'd like to introduce Aunt Katherine, and you, to one of the heroes -- her second cousin once removed, John Franklin Walter (1924-1944).

John was born on 16 June 1924 in Redland, Maryland, an unincorporated place in Montgomery County. His father was  George Cloudsley Walter, a farmer, and his mother was Edna Mae (Zimmerman) Walter. John was one of thirteen children, although two sisters died in infancy. When the 1940 census was enumerated John was 15 years old, had completed the 8th grade and worked as a farm hand on his father's farm.

Two years later he joined the U.S. Marine Corps in October as a private. He was assigned to Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 12th Marines (reinforcing the 21st), 3rd Marine Division and trained at New River Marine Corps Air Station in Onslow County, North Carolina, and Camp Dunlap in Niland, California. According to the muster rolls for John's unit he was a truck driver for Battery F, a 75mm pack howitzer company.

12th Marines (Artillery) firing a 75mm pack howitzer on Bougainville;
photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

Portions of the 3rd Marine Division had echeloned to Auckland, New Zealand, between January and March 1943. The division moved to Guadalcanal in June 1943 for additional training. John and his unit likely joined the division in New Zealand or Guadalcanal as his muster roll for April 1943 listed him as being "in the field."

The 3rd Marine Division saw action in the battles of Bougainville and and Guam. During the Battle of Bougainville division troops made an amphibious landing on the beaches on the night of 1 November 1943. It took about three and a half months of bitter fighting before the island was securely in the hands of Allied forces. The Japanese made a counterattack in March 1944 but were repulsed. Nearly 400 Marines were killed during the battles.

Japanese antiaircraft gunners on the beaches of Bougainville, which opposed
the American amphibious landing; photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

In January 1944 3rd Marine Division returned to Guadalcanal to rest, refit, and train. Next, the division took part in the Battle of Guam. According to Wikipedia, this battle took place from 21 July to 10 August 1944. The 3rd Marine Division landed near Agana at 8:29 on the morning of 21 July. By nightfall the beachhead was between 6,000 and 7,000 feet deep. During the night the Japanese infiltrated the Allied lines but were driven back with heavy losses in men and equipment. For the next several days the 3rd Marine Division, the 77th Infantry Division and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade deepened their penetration and repulsed the enemy. It was during this period of fighting that PFC John Franklin Walter was killed. Two days after his death the three beachheads were joined on July 28 and Allied forces turned north to sweep the island of the enemy.

Map showing the progress of the Battle of Guam; courtesy of Wikipedia

The muster roll for 3rd Battalion for the period 1 July through 31 July 1944 listed John F. Walter, PFC as "died" and went on to say "see paragraph 2(c) of secret letter from commanding officer, this organization, to Director of Personnel, Marine Corps, dated 25 October 1944."

John's body was interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on 1 December 1949.

John Franklin Walter headstone; image courtesy of and the
Honolulu, Hawaii, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
(Punchbowl), 1941-2011, record collection


  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

    1. For some reason, it's one of my favorite topics to write about. If I can discover the unit in which an ancestor served, I am on the hunt! Thank you.