PFC Wilbur Clyde Mattern

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PFC Wilbur Clyde Mattern

Oelwein, Fayette County, Iowa, USA
Death 21 Nov 1943 (aged 23)
Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, Kiribati
Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
Plot Section 60 | Grave 11383
Memorial ID 169169830 · View Source
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Having already served a 4-year tour for the United States Army, 21-year-old Wilbur Clyde Mattern was home only 3 months before walking into the Des Moines office for the Marine Corps and enlisting. Soon after the, 69 ¼”, 157 pound blue-eyed brunette would report to Headquarters, Central Recruiting Division in Chicago and board a train destined for Mare Island. He would graduate Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego with the 160th Platoon in 1942 and move on to Camp Elliott. In early 1943, Wilbur would ship out into the Pacific Theater, bound for Wellington, New Zealand. There he would prepare for his first battle.

PFC Wilbur Clyde Mattern was with his brothers in the 8th Marines (Mike/3) of the 2nd Marine Division when they landed on Betio. Their mission 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.

According to 1LT Paul Hospodar, "The first machine-gun platoon, attached to I Company in the fourth wave, disembarked from a transport on D-Day, forming a four-bout group. We joined the Eighth Regiment's third battalion, who were to rendezvous and act as a reserve battalion. We circled about, awaiting further orders, and finally proceeded to make a four abreast landing on the northeast side of the pier. We approached under intense enemy fire opposition from Red Beach Three. The enemy's gunfire consisted mostly of 20 and 40 millimeters, light and heavy machine guns, and scattered mortar fire. The LCVP4 was hit, forcing Sergeant Kenneth W. Seymour and his men to abandon the boat and work their way along the burning and sniper-infested pier. During their trek towards the beach, the men knocked out several sniper nests on the pier. Upon gaining a foothold on land, Private First Class Wilbur C. Mattern was killed by machine-gun fire. Corporal Robert F. Clement and Private First Class William W. Erwin were wounded." Wilbur was just 23 years old.

At Christmas, Mr Philip James Mattern and Mrs Sarah “Sadie” (Rutter) Mattern would receive a Western Union telegram notifying them that Wilbur, their third child and 2nd son, had been killed in action. Later would arrive a letter from Navy chaplain, Lt Willard, offering several scriptures to comfort them, and assuring Wilbur’s parents that “Your son lived courageously and died sacrificially, for the love of us all. He did not hesitate to take the step which led to his death. He died as he lived – bravely and heroically.”

The March 9, 1944 edition of the Oelwein Daily Register reported that the Purple Heart had been awarded posthumously and received by Mr and Mrs Mattern; six years later, his hometown community of Oelwein would honor Wilbur’s services and sacrifice by dedicating AmVets Post 122; it would be named for PFC Mattern and his brother, Walter (killed on Guam just 8 months after Wilbur), as well as two Roepke boys and two Vermillion boys.

For more than 71 years, Wilbur Clyde Mattern remained buried - indeed, lost - on that island where he and so many of his brothers-in-arms fell; however, in June of 2015, PFC Mattern was found by a non-governmental organization, History Flight, which notified DPAA that they discovered a burial site on Betio Island and recovered the remains of what they believed were 36 U.S. Marines who fought during the battle.

On the 73rd anniversary of the day that he gave his life, Marine PFC Wilbur Clyde Mattern will be laid to rest on the hollowed ground at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Family Members

Gravesite Details Conflicting sources indicate birth date as June 20th and June 26th.

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  • Created by: JSMorrison
  • Added: 1 Sep 2016
  • Find a Grave Memorial 169169830
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for PFC Wilbur Clyde Mattern (20 Jun 1920–21 Nov 1943), Find a Grave Memorial no. 169169830, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by JSMorrison (contributor 47978427) .