Sgt William John Steen

Westchester Square, Bronx County, New York, USA
Death 8 Aug 1942 (aged 24)
Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands
Burial Manila, Capital District, National Capital Region, Philippines
Memorial ID 56753707 · View Source
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On the first night on Guadalcanal, the Marines were careful to set out security details to give early warning of impending attacks. The commander of Company L selected Sergeant William Steen for this detail; Sgt Steen picked out four of his best men and took care to pass the word that he would be back once they were dug in.

He led the his men out and they vanished almost immediately into the dense, tall kunai grass that grew everywhere around us. After establishing the forward outpost, Steen headed back toward the perimeter alone. By now darkness was total, and what little visibility the night sky might have given us was nullified by the kunai grass. Several men in Steen’s platoon heard the sound of somebody thrashing through the grass, coming in their direction. Nobody had a clue as to where the Japanese were, or whether they’d located our position. A voice came to the platoon through the darkness, low but clear. “OK, men. It’s me.” A shot rang out as Sergeant Steen spoke. One of his men, frightened and trigger-happy, had squeezed off a round from his rifle. It hit Steen in the chest. Within seconds, the men got him back behind the line, but it was no good. He was bleeding profusely, and within three minutes, he was dead. Later that night, the man who had shot Steen cracked up. Corpsmen took the man away, and nobody in our unit ever heard from him or about him again. After the accident that took Steen’s life, during our bivouac in the high grass on our first night on the Canal, nobody ever talked about it. The way he was killed was the kind of thing you never want to happen, and when it did happen, we just did not want to talk about it. On the night he was killed, I was dug in a few feet away from my own platoon sergeant, our platoon leader, and [another sergeant]. Steen’s unit was dug in to our right, not much more than twenty or twenty-five yards from us. It was too dark to see anything, but I heard the bang of a rifle shot, and a yell, then somebody hollering, “Get the corpsman!” Soon I heard the corpsman’s voice: “We gotta get him out of here right away.” But Steen was dead by the time they started to move him. He was buried in the marines’ cemetery on Guadalcanal. We were lucky to have a man like Bill Steen in our unit, and his death was a tragedy.

Gravesite Details Entered the service from New York.


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  • Created by: CWGC/ABMC
  • Added: 8 Aug 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 56753707
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sgt William John Steen (11 Jul 1918–8 Aug 1942), Find A Grave Memorial no. 56753707, citing Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Manila, Capital District, National Capital Region, Philippines ; Maintained by CWGC/ABMC (contributor 6) .