Corp Stephen Serdula

Corp Stephen Serdula

Corning, Steuben County, New York, USA
Death 13 Aug 1942 (aged 19)
Honiara, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands
Burial Manila, Capital District, National Capital Region, Philippines
Plot Listed on Tablets of the Missing; cenopath memorial
Memorial ID 56753543 · View Source
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Stephen Serdula was the second son of Antonio and Theresa Serdula. His parents were immigrants from Czechoslovakia, arriving in the United States in 1910. He was born and raised in Corning, New York. Serdula was proficient in athletics, lettering in golf and track. at the Corning Free Academy which he attended until 1940.

The 1930 US Census shows the family as living in Corning, Steuben, New York. The following family members were recorded as living in the home:
Head Antonio Serdula M 38 Czechoslovakia
Wife Theresa Serdula F 30 Czechoslovakia
Son Charles Serdula M 8 New York
Son Steven Serdula M 7 New York
Dau Mary Serdula F 5 New York
Son John Serdula M 4 New York
Dau Anna Serdula F 2 New York
Dau Susie Serdula F 1 New York

In the 1940 U.S. Census, (name sometimes thought to be recorded a Serdola)two more children were now in the family; Helen age 7 and George age 3. His father had died by the time of the census.

Serdula enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on August 21, 1940. After completing boot camp training at Parris Island, South Carolina, he was posted to Company E, Second Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment and soon deployed on a cruise to Puerto Rico, Cuba, aboard the USS MCCAWLEY. In January of 1941 he was transferred to H&S Company, 5th Marine Regiment, First Marine Division, and became a Scout/Observer.

In April 1942, the First Marine Division deployed to New Zealand for further training. Throughout 1942, the primary objective of the First Marine Division was to take the fight to the Japanese. Shortly after their arrival at Wellington, the word was passed that they would soon be departing for the war zone. The Intelligence Section was concentrating on a small island in the Solomon Islands called Guadalcanal - it was chosen as their first target.

The landing on Guadalcanal went unopposed. The Japanese waited in the jungle for the coming battle with the Marines. The Intelligence Section set about gathering and analyzing information they gleaned from the area. On August 12th, a Marine patrol from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, captured a Japanese soldier named Sakado, who was found in their area. The Marines learned that the Japanese west of the Matanikau River were a disorganized and demoralized group, short on food and in poor health. They could, Sakado thought, be induced to surrender given the proper conditions.

The commander of the Intelligence Section, Colonel Frank Bryan Goettge, had been annoyed by the rush job that intelligence had been forced into in New Zealand and the now apparent shortcomings in maps and other data were becoming more evident. Sakado was a godsend. Col. Goettge sent First Sergeant Steven Custer to organize a patrol, which Goettge himself would head. They would take an interpreter, a doctor, a good portion of the intelligence section and some riflemen for support, and boat across to a secluded beach where a white flag had reportedly been seen. They would convince the Japanese there to surrender and work their way back to Headquarters the next day, with Goettge, presumably, at the head of a cluster of happily surrendered Japanese.

The patrol, consisting of 25 men plus Sakado (who was led by a rope around his neck by Platoon Sergeant Denzil Ray Caltrider) set out from the camp at Kukum at about 1800 hours – a twelve hour delay caused by numerous personnel changes. The men were traveling light, carrying enough food for one day, a canteen, a poncho, and only light weapons (contrary to First Sergeant Custer's plan who called for heavy weapons).

Due to tidal issues, the delay caused another problem – it was now too late to risk heading for the original landing site. Ignoring the warnings of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Whaling and the cries of Sakado, who begged them not to land there, the boat turned for shore and landed about 200 yards west of the Matanikau. The boat ran up on a sandbar, forcing the Marines to jump over the gun-whales and rock it free, creating quite a racket. They waded in to shore and, taking cover behind a line of banyan trees, held a quick council of war. All the noise they had made and now this pause gave the Japanese soldiers of the 2nd Platoon, 11th CU Security Force under Lt. Soichi Shindo, plenty of time to pick their targets. As Col. Goettge led an advance party into the treeline, two shots rang out. Col. Goettge fell dead with a shot to the head. The seriously wounded 1stSgt Custer dropped on top of him. Two Marines who crawled forward to check on the men recovered Goettge's insignia and wristwatch. The survivors formed a defensive perimeter on the beach, and over the course of the night and following morning were gradually picked off by the Japanese defenders. By dawn, the patrol had been wiped out aside from three survivors who managed to swim back to friendly lines one at a time. They reported seeing Japanese swords "flashing in the sun" as they fell upon the wounded and dead. One of the dead, was Stephen Serdula.

The bodies of the dead were never recovered. There were accounts of knowing where they were and that they had been thrown into fighting trenches and covered up. There were at least three reports over the following weeks that the bodies were partially buried in the sand with limbs sticking out of the makeshift graves. One report, made by a Marine years later stated he was on patrol at the scene of the slaughter and personally saw the mutilated bodies of Goettge's patrol to include decapitated torsos and boots with limbs still attached. But no bodies were ever recovered.

Serdula's body and the rest of the men are lost to this day. Several attempts over the past 65 years have found nothing and it is suspected now that building in the area and the change of the shoreline will result in the patrol's remains may never be recovered.

Corporal Stephen Serdula Sn# 292498, earned the following badges/decorations for his service in the United State Marine Corps during World War II:
- Combat Action Ribbon
- Purple Heart Medal
- American Defense Service Medal
- Asiatic-Pacific Theater of Operations campaign Medal with one bronze battle/campaign star
- World War II Victory Medal
- Navy/Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon
- Marine Corps Rifle marksmanship badge
- Marine Corps Basic Qualification Badge with Bars

**NOTE** - A portion of this bio is based on information from the website They have done a fantastic job of researching approximately 3000 US Marines whose bodies were lost in the war. This writer wholeheartedly recommends their site for researchers or families of the missing. - Rick Lawrence, MSgt., USMC/USAFR {RET})

United States Marine Corps
Entered the Service from: New York
Died: 14-Aug-43
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines

Gravesite Details Entered the service from New York.


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  • Maintained by: Rick Lawrence
  • Originally Created by: CWGC/ABMC
  • Added: 8 Aug 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 56753543
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Corp Stephen Serdula (12 Dec 1922–13 Aug 1942), Find A Grave Memorial no. 56753543, citing Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Manila, Capital District, National Capital Region, Philippines ; Maintained by Rick Lawrence (contributor 47207615) .