PFC Donald Ross “Blackie” Tolson

PFC Donald Ross “Blackie” Tolson

Kansas City, Platte County, Missouri, USA
Death 20 Nov 1943 (aged 20)
Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, Kiribati
Burial Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
Memorial ID 184672383 · View Source
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Marine Corps Pfc. Donald R. Tolson, killed during the battle of Tarawa in World War II, has now been accounted for.

Donald was the youngest of 3 sons born to Ora Cleveland & Roxy Ann (McKay) Tolson. His older brothers were Chester & James Tolson.

In November 1943, Tolson was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, in an attempt to secure the island. Over several days of intense fighting at Tarawa, approximately 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded, but the Japanese were virtually annihilated.

Tolson was killed sometime on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943.

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 Island, but Tolson’s remains were not identified.

From February to July 2017, DPAA, through a partnership with History Flight, Inc., returned to Betio to conduct excavations of osseous remains through various advanced investigative techniques. The remains were sent to DPAA for analysis.

To identify Tolson's remains, scientists from DPAA used dental, anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis, which matched his records, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.

PFC Tolson was accounted for on September 27, 2017. He will soon be returned to his family.

Surviving Donald today are great-niece, Elizabeth Brubaker, and great-nephews, Terry Tolson & Mark Brubaker, and their families; as well as several cousins.

DPAA is grateful to History Flight, Inc., for their partnership in this mission.

Tolson's name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (56133756), along with the others who are missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

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  • Created by: JSMorrison
  • Added: 27 Oct 2017
  • Find A Grave Memorial 184672383
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for PFC Donald Ross “Blackie” Tolson (18 Aug 1923–20 Nov 1943), Find A Grave Memorial no. 184672383, citing Mount Moriah Cemetery, Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by JSMorrison (contributor 47978427) .