Pacific Wrecks
Pacific Wrecks    
  Missing In Action (MIA) Prisoners Of War (POW) Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)  
Chronology Locations Aircraft Ships Submit Info How You Can Help Donate
1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr.
U. S. Marine Corps, 2nd Marine Division

Background
Born on May 2, 1910, in Atlanta, Georgia, Bonnyman's family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. His father was the president of Knoxville's Blue Diamond Coal Company. He attended Princeton University where he studied engineering and played football. During his sophomore year, he joined the U. S. Army Air Corps and began flight training in June 1932 but washed out three months later. Afterwards, he worked in the coal industry then moved to New Mexico and started a copper mining business.

Wartime History
At the start of the Pacific War, Bonnyman was exempt from military obligation due to his age and because his company produced a vital material for the war effort. Regardless, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) as a private in Phoenix, AZ and was trained at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, CA.

Assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. In October 1942, Bonnyman embarked on SS Matsonia and participated in combat on Guadalcanal as part of a pioneer unit. In February 1943, he received a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant due to his leadership skills.

On November 20, 1943 Bonnyman led a demolition team during the assault on Tarawa (Betio). While pinned down near Betio Pier, he led attacks that overcame enemy installations. The next day he led an assault on a bunker which contained approximately 150 Japanese soldiers. While attacking on November 22, 1943 he was mortally wounded and died. He was buried in a field burial on the island that was forgotten and lost.

Medal of Honor
Posthumously, he earned the Medal of Honor. In 1947, the medal was presented to his family by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal with his daughter, Frances, accepted the medal on behalf of the family.

Recovery of Remains
In June 2015, Bonnyman's remains, along with the remains of 35 other Marines who were killed in action, were located and recovered by History Flight / Mark Noah on Betio. His remains will be transported to Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) / CILHI in July and returned to the family by August 2015.

Posthumous Medal of Honor Citation (20 - 22 November 1943)
Medal of Honor
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of the 2d Battalion Shore Party, 8th Marines, 2d Marine Division, during the assault against enemy Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, 20-22 November 1943. Acting on his own initiative when assault troops were pinned down at the far end of Betio Pier by the overwhelming fire of Japanese shore batteries, 1st Lt. Bonnyman repeatedly defied the blasting fury of the enemy bombardment to organize and lead the besieged men over the long, open pier to the beach and then, voluntarily obtaining flame throwers and demolitions, organized his pioneer shore party into assault demolitionists and directed the blowing of several hostile installations before the close of D-day. Determined to effect an opening in the enemy's strongly organized defense line the following day, he voluntarily crawled approximately 40 yards forward of our lines and placed demolitions in the entrance of a large Japanese emplacement as the initial move in his planned attack against the heavily garrisoned, bombproof installation which was stubbornly resisting despite the destruction early in the action of a large number of Japanese who had been inflicting heavy casualties on our forces and holding up our advance. Withdrawing only to replenish his ammunition, he led his men in a renewed assault, fearlessly exposing himself to the merciless slash of hostile fire as he stormed the formidable bastion, directed the placement of demolition charges in both entrances and seized the top of the bombproof position, flushing more than 100 of the enemy who were instantly cut down, and effecting the annihilation of approximately 150 troops inside the emplacement. Assailed by additional Japanese after he had gained his objective, he made a heroic stand on the edge of the structure, defending his strategic position with indomitable determination in the face of the desperate charge and killing three of the enemy before he fell, mortally wounded. By his dauntless fighting spirit, unrelenting aggressiveness and forceful leadership throughout three days of unremitting, violent battle, 1st Lt. Bonnyman had inspired his men to heroic effort, enabling them to beat off the counterattack and break the back of hostile resistance in that sector for an immediate gain of 400 yards with no further casualties to our forces in this zone. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Contribute Information
Do you have photos or additional information to add?

  Discussion Forum Daily Updates Reviews Museums Interviews & Oral Histories  
 
Pacific Wrecks Inc. All rights reserved.
Donate Now Facebook Twitter YouTube Google Plus Instagram