Marine Corps SGT Dwight Wade Randall, 22, killed in World War II, was finally returned to his family and, on November 20, 2018, laid to rest - in American soil - with full military honors.
Born January 20, 1921, in Fresno, California, Dwight was the 5th of ten children blessed to the union of John Lee Sr and Lillian (nee Oldfield) Randall.
Dwight enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on January 22, 1942 in Los Angeles, California.
Sergeant Randall was with his brothers in Charlie Company of the 2nd Amphibious Tractor Battalion 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 20, 1943 (D-Day for the "Battle of Tarawa"), when young Dwight - just 22 years old - perished. He was reportedly soon 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, Dwight's parents 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 his passing were siblings Walter Dean, John Jr, Reba Alva (Mrs David Foore, Bessie (Mrs Ted Felles), Stacy James, Edythe Lorane (Mrs Bert Richardson), Erma Lee (Mrs Howard McCoy), Ebba Jean (Mrs Fred Clark), and Richard Allen Randall.
Dwight's mother placed a memorial marker in Section D of Liberty Veterans Cemetery in Fresno (22460280, a cenotaph) in hopes that one day he would be found and returned home.
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. 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. The 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company conducted remains recovery operations on Betio between 1946 and 1947, but Randall’s remains were not identified. All of the remains found on Tarawa were sent to the Schofield Barracks Central Identification Laboratory for identification in 1947. By 1949, the remains that had not been identified were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP, known as the "Punchbowl"), in Honolulu, including one set, designated as Tarawa Unknown X-162.
On March 27, 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs disinterred Tarawa Unknown X-162 from the NMCP for identification.
On September 13, 2018, the DPAA officially announced that SGT Dwight Randall had been accounted-for. To identify Randall’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) analysis, dental, anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.
Dwight was finally returned to his family, on the 75th Anniversary of the day he perished on Tarawa (November 20, 2018), laid to rest next to his family in the Belmont Memorial Park in Fresno, California with full military honors.
Marine Corps SGT Dwight Wade Randall is memorialized among the NMCP's Honolulu Memorial. Although he has now been recovered, identified and returned to his family, SGT Randall's name shall remain permanently inscribed within Court 4 of the "Courts of the Missing", along with the other MIAs from WWII. A rosette has been placed next to Dwight's name signifying that he has finally been found (56119872, a cenotaph).
Marine Corps POW/MIA Section
DPAA Release No: 18-190 (Nov. 7, 2018)
DPAA Recent News & Stories (Oct. 23, 2018)
American Battle Monuments Commission
Jennifer Morrison, independent volunteer forensic genealogist
Sponsored by Ancestry