- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 18, 2001

Thirteen Marines who died in a celebrated raid that lifted sagging American spirits in the dark early days of World War II came home yesterday to a hero's burial at Arlington Memorial Cemetery, 59 years to the day after they fell.
The men of the 2nd Raider Battalion died on Butaritari Island in the Makin Atoll on Aug. 17, 1942.
"These men have not died in vain," Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James L. Jones told about 1,000 family members, friends, surviving Raiders, other Marines and war veterans who overflowed the 600-seat Fort Myer Chapel. "This is the generation that transformed the globe. We should be inspired by these heroes of yesterday."
The 13 were among 19 Raiders who were killed by the Japanese that day on Butaritari Island, 2,400 miles southwest of Hawaii. Their bodies were not found until 1999. Identified a year later, six of the Raiders were claimed by their families for burials at home.
The Makin raid, as the Marines call it, was intended to divert Japanese attention and resources from Guadalcanal, a thousand miles southwest of the atoll, where the Marines had landed Aug. 7 and were quickly locked in a death struggle with the Japanese in the first island campaign of the war.
The raiders, under Lt. Col. Evans Carlson (they called themselves "Carlson's Raiders"), were dispatched to Makin aboard two submarines, the Nautilus and the Argonaut, and landed on the beach in rubber dinghies. Rough seas swamped the 19 rubber boats, but they made it to the beach just at dawn. A Marine inadvertently discharged his rifle, attracting a contingent of Japanese troops who arrived on bicycles, and sharp fighting broke out. Many of the Japanese soldiers fired from perches in coconut trees lining the beach.
Fighting intensified through the morning, but the Marines managed to burn several buildings and equipment and destroy a radio station on a loading pier. In late afternoon, Col. Carlson withdrew his men to the beach, where things began to go wrong. The sea had grown rougher, and few of the rubber boats made it through the breakers. Motors were swamped, equipment was lost, and most of the Marines were thrown back on the beach.
Fewer than a hundred Marines of the original 208 men and 13 officers made it to the waiting submarines. Half the contingent, including four stretcher case, were left overnight on the beach.
The next morning, a party led by Maj. James Roosevelt, a son of the president, led four more boats through the surf to the subs. The skipper of the Nautilus sent a rubber boat with several volunteers to the beach to help extricate the remaining party, but a Japanese fighter strafed the boat, killing all aboard.
The Marines on the beach, finding that the Japanese had deserted their base, spent the rest of the day going through the headquarters, collecting intelligence and inflicting damage. After dark, four rubber boats were lashed to a native outrigger and made it to the subs by midnight. Convinced that all survivors were aboard and that the missing men had been killed, the subs departed. One of the 30, Sgt. Clyde Thomason of Atlanta, was later awarded the Medal of Honor, the first enlisted Marine to be so decorated in the war.
Despite Col. Carlson's careful and prolonged withdrawal, nine Marines were left alive on the atoll. They were captured by the Japanese and at first, according to an account by the historian Edward C. Whitman, treated humanely. Then, over the protests of several of his officers, Adm. Kose Abe, Japanese commander in the Marshall Islands, ordered them ceremonially beheaded on Oct. 16, 1942. Adm. Abe was himself hanged as a war criminal on Guam after the war.
Anne Roosevelt, daughter of Maj. Roosevelt, was among those paying last respects at Arlington yesterday.
Col. Carlson, who had paid natives $50 to bury the dead Marines, delivered a eulogy on Sept. 2, 1942, in Hawaii, saying: "They had convictions, and they lived those convictions even to the point of sacrificing their lives. I went to each as he lay with his face towards the enemy. I placed each on his back that he might rest more easily, and I said a silent prayer over each."
Ashley W. "Bill" Fisher was 16 when he heard Col. Carlson's words that day, having lied about his age to join the Marines.
"It was an adrenalin rush after Pearl Harbor. I wanted to go. I just got there, dropped my sea bag on the floor and dropped out for a gathering," said Mr. Fisher, now 75, adding that the eulogy "captivated me."
Mr. Fisher is one of the Raiders responsible for finding the 19 dead comrades in 1999 and subsequently identifying them. Twice before, efforts had been made to locate the Marines.
Mr. Fisher credits the veterans of the Vietnam War for enabling Raiders to find their dead comrades. About two decades after the Vietnam War, its veterans had insisted on finding their missing-in-action buddies. Their pressures on the U.S. government succeeded in setting up an identification laboratory.
Mr. Fisher helped establish a Fallen Comrades Committee with other Raiders to gain congressional help. Eventually, a search team in Butaritari found a 73-year-old native who was 16 in 1942, when he agreed to help bury the 19 Marines and one sailor.
Mr. Fisher served in the Marines for four years but not much on active duty because he was stricken with malaria. He corrected his age for the records. A reservist after discharge, he completed his high school education when 20, went to Loyola University and received a law degree.
He and Julie, his wife of 52 years, attended yesterday's ceremony. Mr. Fisher was one of seven former Raiders who followed the horse-drawn coffin, which contained the unidentified remains of others in the Butaritari graves.
The 13 flag-draped coffins of the identified Raiders were already in positions near the eastern edge of the cemetery. Six husky Marines had solemnly carried the single coffin into the chapel, then marched behind it into the cemetery and set it among the 13 Raiders.
The Raiders were deactivated Feb. 1, 1944, after battling in Guadalcanal, New Georgia and Bougainville. In World War II, 892 Raiders died, seven received the Medal of Honor, 516 were awarded the Silver Star, and 2,406 were wounded and received the Purple Heart.
A soft summer rain fell on the mourners, the Marine band, flag bearers and 50-member honor guard, which marched deliberately one mile down the curving lanes from the chapel into the cemetery to the strains of the familiar hymns "Faith of Our Fathers," "Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past," "Abide With Me" and "Onward Christian Soldiers."
Said Joe Griffith, Capt.-USMC (retired), the last surviving officer of the 2d Raider Battalion: "They're finally home, which is where I want to be when I die."


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