|In honor of 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman
Medal of Honor Recipient Marine 1st Lt. Alexander (Sandy) Bonnyman, Jr., was remembered and honored at
East Tennessee Veterans Memorial Association’s first annual Medal of Honor Series of receptions and ceremonies on May 2, 2011.
The fundraising event sponsored by ETVMA was to help the organization maintain the War Memorial on World’s Fair Park, which the ETVMA dedicated Nov. 15, 2008.
The memorial is a public plaza with a formal arrangement of granite pillars bearing the names of 6,172 names of military personnel from 35 East Tennessee counties who died in military service during conflicts since World War I.
John Romeiser, ETVMA president, said the organization plans to honor all 14 of Tennessee’s Medal of Honor winners with yearly events.
|1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr.
Bonnyman was killed in action at Betio, Tarawa during World War II. A combat engineer, he received the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars and the World War II Victory Medal posthumously for his actions during the strategically important assault on a Japanese bombproof shelter during the Battle of Tarawa.
“On the second day of the struggle, Bonnyman, determined to effect an opening in the enemy’s strongly defended defense line, led his demolitions teams in an assault on the entrance to a huge bombproof shelter which contained approximately 150 Japanese soldiers. The enemy position was about forty yards forward of the Marine lines. Bonnyman advanced his team to the mouth of the position and killed many of the defenders. His team was forced to withdraw to replenish its supply of ammunition and grenades. Bonnyman again pressed his attack and gained the top of the structure, thereby flushing more than one hundred of its occupants into the open where they were shot down. When the Japanese fought back, the lieutenant stood at the forward edge of the position and killed several attackers before he fell mortally wounded. Betio Island was declared secured on the same day.
For his actions during the battle, Bonnyman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. The medal was formally presented to his family by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal in 1947. His 12-year-old daughter, Frances, accepted the medal on behalf of the Bonnyman family.
According to the Defense Missing Personnel Office, Bonnyman’s remains were “non-recovered.” Wikipedia
Update (2015): Remains found: Memorial service for MOH recipient Marine First Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr
In a Knoxnews.com article, Medal of Honor Recipient remembered writer Fred Brown states:
“Clay Evans, (Bonnyman’s grandson) said he had heard stories about his grandfather all of his life is a journalist in Niwot, Colo., and is writing a book about Bonnyman and his Medal of Honor. He visited Tarawa last year and showed many of the photos from his trip in his presentation before the ETVMA crowd.
His grandfather’s body was never recovered, despite many efforts to find him and an estimated 200 other Marines who died on the island but have not been found.
In a ceremony after the dinner at the Foundry, Frances Evans laid a wreath at the front of the memorial in honor of her father.”
Filmmaker Steven C. Barber teamed with actor Ed Harris to make the documentary “Return to Tarawa,” about the World War II battle and Cooper’s efforts to repatriate the bones of some 500 Americans still lying there.
Cooper said he hopes the mission is able to recover the remains of Alexander Bonnyman, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who died at Tarawa, and whose remains are still there. Cooper was so touched by the fallen soldier’s story that he is working on another documentary with Barber, titled “Bringing Home Bonnyman.”
Photo credit: Chad Greene. A wreath is laid in honor of 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman by his daughter, Frances Bonnyman Evans, third from left, and Marine Corps League Det. 924 Commandant Virgil Young, second from left, during the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial Association Medal of Honor Evening on Monday at the War Memorial in World’s Fair Park.