1LT Alexander “Sandy” Bonnyman Jr.


1LT Alexander “Sandy” Bonnyman Jr. Famous memorial

Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, USA
Death 22 Nov 1943 (aged 33)
Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, Kiribati
Burial Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee, USA
Plot Next to his parents
Memorial ID 10359156 View Source

World War II Medal of Honor Recipient. He received the award posthumously (presented to his daughter) from Secretary of the Navy James F. Forrestal in Washington D.C. on January 22, 1947, for his actions as a 1st Lieutenant combat engineer with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, on November 23, 1943, at Betio, Gilbert Islands, during the Battle of Tarawa. The son of a coal company executive, he attended Princeton University but dropped out after his second year to join the U.S. Army Air Corps in June, 1932. He washed out three months later and was discharged, then worked in the coal industry before moving to New Mexico, where he started a copper mining business. Following the U.S. Entry in World War II on December 7, 1941, he enlisted as a private in the U.S. Marine Corps and was sent to the South Pacific where he distinguished himself in combat action at the Battle of Guadalcanal and was given a battlefield commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. On November 23, 1943, his unit was part of the invasion force on Betio, in the Gilbert Islands, where his display of courage and gallantry helped to flush out a fortified Japanese stronghold and he was killed in the process. His remains were interred in a hastily-dug local battlefield cemetery whose location was lost after the war. In March, 2015, the cemetery was rediscovered and his remains were identified and repatriated back to his childhood home in Knoxville, Tennessee, and reinterred at Highland Memorial Gardens. Additionally, his name is inscribed on the Wall of the Missing in the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, and a cenotaph in his honor resides in the Santa Fe National Cemetery, Santa Fe, New Mexico. His Medal of Honor citation reads: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as executive officer of the 2d Battalion Shore Party, 8th Marines, 2d Marine Division, during the assault against enemy Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, 20-22 November, 1943. Acting on his own initiative when assault troops were pinned down at the far end of Betio Pier by the overwhelming fire of Japanese shore batteries, 1st Lt. Bonnyman repeatedly defied the blasting fury of the enemy bombardment to organize and lead the besieged men over the long, open pier to the beach and then, voluntarily obtaining flamethrowers and demolitions, organized his pioneer shore party into assault demolitionists and directed the blowing of several hostile installations before the close of D-Day. Determined to effect an opening in the enemy's strongly organized defense line the following day, he voluntarily crawled approximately 40 yards forward of our lines and placed demolitions in the entrance of a large Japanese emplacement as the initial move in his planned attack against the heavily-garrisoned, bombproof installation which was stubbornly resisting despite the destruction early in the action of a large number of Japanese who had been inflicting heavy casualties on our forces and holding up our advance. Withdrawing only to replenish his ammunition, he led his men in a renewed assault, fearlessly exposing himself to the merciless slash of hostile fire as he stormed the formidable bastion, directed the placement of demolition charges in both entrances, and seized the top of the bombproof position, flushing more than 100 of the enemy who were instantly cut down and effecting the annihilation of approximately 150 troops inside the emplacement. Assailed by additional Japanese after he had gained his objective, he made a heroic stand on the edge of the structure, defending his strategic position with indomitable determination in the face of the desperate charge and killing three of the enemy before he fell, mortally wounded. By his dauntless fighting spirit, unrelenting aggressiveness, and forceful leadership throughout three days of unremitting, violent battle, 1st Lt. Bonnyman had inspired his men to heroic effort, enabling them to beat off the counterattack and break the back of hostile resistance in that sector for an immediate gain of 400 yards with no further casualties to our forces in this zone. He gallantly gave his life for his country."

Bio by: William Bjornstad



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Entered the service from New Mexico.

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: RPD2
  • Added: 22 Jan 2005
  • Find a Grave Memorial 10359156
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for 1LT Alexander “Sandy” Bonnyman Jr. (10 May 1910–22 Nov 1943), Find a Grave Memorial ID 10359156, citing Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery, Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .