Marine Corps PFC Darwin Hiram Brown, 19, killed in World War II, was finally laid to rest - in American soil - with full military honors.
Born January 12, 1924, Darwin Hiram Brown was the 2nd of three children blessed to the union of Arthur & Beatrice (nee Shaw) Brown.
He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in Massachusetts.
Private First Class Brown was with his brothers in Foxtrot Company, 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Marines (F-2/2) when they landed on Betio as part of Operation: GALVANIC. The mission of the 2nd Marine Division was to secure the island in order to control the Japanese airstrip in the Tarawa Atoll; thereby preventing the Japanese Imperial forces from getting closer to the United States, and enabling US forces to get closer to mainland Japan. It would become one of the bloodiest battles in the Corps history.
It was November 21, 1943 (D+1 for the “Battle of Tarawa”), when young Darwin - just 19 years old - perished. He was reportedly buried on Betio Island - a temporary location chosen by his fellow Marines, the survivors of the battle, until the Fallen could be recovered and returned to their families.
Having a loved one away from home during the holidays is always trying; however, having a son or husband off fighting in the war left the whole family on edge. The fact that this battle took place just before Thanksgiving meant that most of the families, who had unknowingly earned their Gold Star, would receive their heart-wrenching telegrams on Christmas Eve – some Christmas Day or even New Years Day.
For his service and sacrifice, Darwin's mother accepted his awards and decorations, including:
- Purple Heart
- Combat Action Ribbon
- World War II Victory Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation
- Asiatic-Pacific Theater Campaign Medal
- Marine Corp Expeditionary Medal, and
- Gold Star Lapel Button.
Also left to mourn is passing were siblings, Beulah (Mrs Francis Denison) and Arthur, an Army TEC5 who was fighting in the European Theater; step-father, Herbert Nelson and half-brother, George Nelson.
Despite the heavy casualties suffered by U.S. forces, military success in the battle of Tarawa was a huge victory for the U.S. military because the Gilbert Islands provided the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet a platform from which to launch assaults on the Marshall and Caroline Islands to advance their Central Pacific Campaign against Japan.
In the immediate aftermath of the fighting on Tarawa, U.S. service members who died in the battle were buried in a number of battlefield cemeteries on the island. In 1946 and 1947, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company conducted remains recovery operations on Betio, but PFC Brown’s remains were not recovered. In 1949, a military review board declared Darwin “non-recoverable”.
In 1999, a construction crew operating on Betio located human remains and military equipment. These remains were taken to the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii (CILHI, now the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) and, on November 6, 2001, they identified the remains of Private 1st Class Darwin H. Brown, missing from World War II.
Marine killed in World War II battle reburied in home town (May 9, 2002)
BERNARDSTON, Mass. -- Marine Pfc. Darwin H. Brown has come home nearly 60 years after the 18-year-old fell during the Battle of Tarawa in the South Pacific.
More than 100 people gathered Wednesday in the old Center Cemetery in this tiny western Massachusetts town for the military funeral. An honor guard of six young Marines in dress uniforms flanked the casket.
Brown’s dog tags, and later his remains and that of another man, were unearthed by local construction workers on what is now Betio Island in the Republic of Kiribati. In November 1943 the atoll was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
Laborious forensic and DNA tests established one of the bodies as Brown’s.
″We thought he was cut down in the coral, and never made it to shore,″ said Brown’s brother, Arthur Brown, 76, of Bernardston, an Army veteran of the Battle of the Bulge.
The investigation revealed Brown had made it ashore where he was gunned down in battle and buried with a Navy medical corpsman killed the following day.
″He was just a typical teen-ager,″ said Beulah Denison, 79. She remembered the men in uniform coming to deliver the telegram informing the family of her younger brother’s death.
″I just knew,″ she said. It was a few days before Christmas 1943.
″It’s an amazing relief,″ she said to be able to say a final goodbye to her brother after all the years.
″We’ve got him now,″ her brother said. ″We know where he is now.″
Darwin Hiram Brown was finally returned to his family and laid to rest at Center Cemetery in
Bernardston, Massachusetts, with full military honors.
Marine Corps Private First Class Darwin Hiram Brown is memorialized among the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific's Honolulu Memorial. Although he has now been recovered and identified, PFC Brown's name shall remain permanently inscribed within Court 2 of the "Courts of the Missing". A rosette has been placed next to his name to verify that Darwin has finally been found (130043883, a cenotaph).
DPAA Personnel Profile
American Battle Monuments Commission
Jennifer Morrison, independent volunteer forensic genealogist
IN MEMORY OF / P.F.C. DARWIN H. BROWN
U.S.M.C. C.CO.F 2ND BAT. 2ND MARINES
BORN JAN. 12, 1924 / KILLED AT TARAWA NOV. 21, 1943
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