|Memorial Service for Marine First Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. in Knoxville, TN (Knoxnews.com)|
Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr., awarded the Medal of Honor after he was
killed on Nov. 22, 1943 in the Battle of Tarawa was finally laid to rest after 72 years. Hundreds of Knoxville, Tennessee
residents gathered for a memorial service at the East Tennessee Veterans
Memorial in World’s Fair Park on Saturday September 26, 2015.
Bonnyman’s remains were identified by the Defense POW/MIA
Accounting Agency in Honolulu and were sent to Knoxville, Tenn., for
burial. He was one of 36 Marines recovered earlier this year from
Tarawa’s Betio Island in the Pacific Ocean.
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.