Lebanese family faces marine burial for the second time | New


Second of two parts

Lebanese Glenn Walker was killed in action at the Battle of Tarawa on November 20, 1943. Due to misidentification, the remains of another Navy were shipped here 73 years ago and buried under the gravestone that bears Walker’s name.

His family learned of the confusion last year; thus, Walker’s remains are scheduled to be returned from Hawaii to Lebanon on July 22. A memorial service will be held at the Fairview Baptist Church, followed by a funeral service with military funeral honors at Wilson County Memorial Gardens on July 24.

One of the few living people who knew the Marine was Dr. Robert Bone, a first cousin of Walker. His father, Sam Bone, on Christmas Eve 1943, carried that fateful telegram from Western Union announcing his death to Walker’s mother. Bone remembers going to the Walker’s house when he was 11 and observing the closed casket in the front room.

“They didn’t open the coffin when the body was brought back,” Bone recalls. “Mrs. Walker, my great aunt, was there. I remember her crying. What was so unusual was that her side of the family, the Talleys, was very stoic and never cried. I didn’t used to see her cry. I remember going into that room with my mom and dad, and she was setting there in all black. She was the kind of person who took the facts as they were. and treated them without any emotion, and this time she was upset.

“Before that, when I was little, we would go to my grandmother’s Sunday night and she would serve dinner for the whole family. My first memory of Glenn was seeing him standing by the well house in the back yard. He must have been 20 or 21 years old. He was very tall and I remember he was wearing a white shirt and dark pants. Glenn was the apple of the eye of the whole family. Even then, it was thought he was heading for big things and he wanted to join the Marine Corps. We thought he had done everything and his life had been destroyed.

After his death, his name was carved into the white stone wall of the Harvard Chapel inside the Harvard Memorial Church in Cambridge, Mass., Which commemorates the students and faculty members who died during World War II, ”Bone said.

Among dozens of letters and other correspondence related to his uncle’s military service, Lane Martin recently came across a letter that Bill Mesner, the only surviving officer of Company E, wrote to Martin’s grandmother on the 14th. May 1944, in response to a letter she wrote. asking him how his son had died.

Of Captain Walker, Mesner noted: “He was on the first landing and after hitting the beach and moving inland for a short distance he returned to the landing craft to give instructions. to the driver. He is believed to have been affected at that time, but no one is sure. In the confusion of the fighting – the fighting was very intense at that time – all trace seems to have been lost from that moment. Glenn was some distance away on the beach where I landed, so I last saw him aboard the ship when we wished each other good luck. For weeks after the action, I tried unsuccessfully to get an eyewitness story, but to no avail. After receiving your letter, I tried again. There was nothing new, still nothing final. Mrs Walker, I sincerely hope that in the future, as yet unknown information will bring more news.

Jimmy Glenn McDowell, 78, considers his uncle “a true American hero”.

“My mother (Kathryn Martin McDowell) was so proud of him that she named me, her first son, in his honor. I was born a month before he was killed. I have always admired his memory. Everyone did it. He had a bright future, but he risked everything for his country. “

McDowell said he was not surprised his uncle’s body was accidentally misidentified.

“The Japanese killed 1,100 Marines. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. The Marines are great there. They honor their dead and leave no one behind. He’s been there in a really good place, ‘the Punchbowl.’ So he was close to his pals the whole time.

“All these years my grandmother and my grandfather have buried another Marine between them. Now he’s coming home. We will honor his memory again and it will bring us all together, ”McDowell said.

Lane Martin’s mother, Frances Walker Martin, wrote a short memoir dedicated to Glenn years ago. Of course, she never knew that the Marine’s remains in her marked grave were not her brother’s.

In the essay she wrote, “He was tall and handsome with light brown, curly hair. He’s the guy who sent you Harvard Blue Grass perfume, and later, after joining the Marines and going on leave, he took you dancing in Cedar Forest. Even if he hadn’t been my brother, I would have been crazy about him.

“The year I was in my senior year in high school, 1941, he graduated from the Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Va., And we went there to see the graduation. It was the first, but not the last time I saw tears in mom’s eyes. We later returned to Washington and stayed at the Mayflower Hotel. He took us to town. It was very exciting for an 18 year old girl.

“Soon the excitement turned to terror when Lieutenant Edward Glenn Walker left San Diego for the South Pacific. The news was disturbing. We knew he was at the heart of the island exploration that the Marines were involved in. The telegram arrived. ‘Lt. Walker was injured at Guadalcanal. There was no further word until we heard from Glenn in New Zealand, where the injured had all been evacuated. He said he was fine and was eager to resume the invasion. While in New Zealand he was appointed captain and company commander. He was so proud of all his men.

“We learned of Glenn’s death on Christmas Eve 1943. Everyone has heard of Iwo Jima, but hardly anyone knows Tarawa. We will never forget it. One of the survivors came to Lebanon to tell mom about the battle, but he couldn’t come here. It was still too awful to talk about.

“Glenn was buried abroad, but in 1947 his body was transferred to the family cemetery in Lebanon. In a way, it comforted us. We all remember the last letter from him in which he said how proud he was of the Marines and his company, and how happy he was to be a part of the fight for freedom.

Sacrifice of the families of gold stars

Walker’s nephew Bill McDowell recalls that one of his vivid childhood memories centers on an incident that took place at his Aunt Frances’ house, the same house Walker grew up in.

“My grandmother and Aunt Frances and her family lived together in a large pre-war house. My mother and my aunt were very close. We have visited quite often. In one room there were pictures and medals on the walls. One wall had Uncle Glenn’s photos and medals and the other was my aunt’s husband, Uncle Lillard, because he was a B-17 pilot, ”Bill said.

“One Christmas, when I was about 10 years old, old enough to understand what a Purple Heart meant, I asked about Uncle Glenn. The whole family entered the formal dining room and everyone was seated. I had Uncle Glenn in my head and I said, “Where did Uncle Glenn sit?” And my Aunt Frances suddenly got up and ran out of the room crying, and my mother went running after her to console her.

“Later I realized how painful it was. He was killed seven years before I was born. It was 17 years later, but how great their pain still was. They missed him, especially at Christmas. It has always made me understand the great price that all these families of gold stars have paid. In the homes of each of those boys who were killed, it was the same thing – a huge sacrifice. “

Martin recounted another anecdote he heard at a family reunion of a cousin, Ralph Shepherd, in the 1980s.

“Ralph was a machine gunner on a B-25 bomber. It was one of the smaller bombers used in WWII. His plane landed at Tarawa in 1944 to refuel, ”Martin said. “At the time, he didn’t know my uncle had been killed. Being such a small plane, it came out to walk and stretch. Without knowing it, he headed straight for the grave marked with my uncle’s name.

Captain Walker’s funeral was celebrated by Leonard Jackson, and the remains of the Unknown Marine were laid to rest at 3 a.m. on Wednesday, October 22, 1947, in Wilson County Memorial Gardens. Ligon and Bobo Funeral Home conducted the funeral. They still have the records of the service. Lane has the register with the names of those who attended the funeral. Among other memorabilia, he also has his uncle Glenn’s faded Lebanon High soccer jersey.

Remains confirmed in 2019

The Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is an agency of the Department of Defense whose mission is to recover US military personnel around the world. The DPAA was able to identify Walker’s identity after the exhumation of the remains of the unknown Tarawa Marine X-198 from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in February 2017. The body belonged to a tall man who had a slight overbite. and a distinctive pattern of gold and silver fillings. His only personal effect was a rusty fountain pen.

Researchers found a lot of common factors between X-198 and Walker, and dental records verified that Walker and X-198 were one and the same.

On March 12, 2019, the DPAA forensic pathologist determined that there had been a misidentification, and Walker’s identification was officially confirmed on March 21, 2019. Currently, his remains are in the DPAA Hickam laboratory from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The remains of the man in Walker’s grave have yet to be identified.

Martin said Hattie Johnson of the Marine Corps Casualty Office “is very confident that they will be able to identify her. What they think is in that coffin in Lebanon is just a jawbone. We are taking care of it. “A man for 70 years. He deserves as much honor as my Uncle Glenn. He’s sort of the Unknown Soldier right now.”

Walker sent a letter to his mother, postmarked at midnight, October 16, 1943, regarding a party. In the letter he wrote: “I am doing well in all respects; I am healthy and happy and do my job well. I’m sure it will, and I wouldn’t feel good if I wasn’t. …

“I also played just as hard. My dinner was successful, although complicated. You see my old girlfriend, the nurse, arrived unexpectedly and called me. Being in love with Betty, I couldn’t break the date, but I felt I had to ask Marie, so I had them both there. I have often wondered what would happen in such a case. Now I know. I won’t try again.

Of his uncle’s correspondence, Martin noted: “The letters almost contrast with the pictures: pictures – a soldier ready for battle; letters – a 26 year old boy having the time of his life to write to his mother about it. I’m sure she received them after her death. The last letter I have is dated November 11. He is on board the ship bound for Tarawa, nine days before being killed.

Particularly poignant is a phrase Glenn Walker wrote in a letter to his mother on April 1, 1942: “If my next 25 years are as happy as the first, I won’t complain.”

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