|Pvt. William Pallesen, Marine raider.|
William E. Pallesen could have been 100 years old today.
He was born on March 25, 1917 in Utah. His mother was born in Wyoming and his father was born in Denmark. His father worked as farmer and later as the postmaster in Manila, Utah. William had an older brother and sister as well as two younger brothers and a younger sister. By 1940 William had completed three years of high school and had a wife (Gertrude Pallesen).
Three weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, William traveled to Salt Lake City and joined the Marines on December 28, 1941. He ended up being a private in Company B, 2nd Marine Raider Battalion. This was a special unit that was trained for special operations behind enemy lines.
Pvt Pallensen participated in one of the first offensive actions by Americans on land in the Carlson raid on Makin Island on August 17, 1942.
Up to that point America had lost to the Japanese Army at Wake Island, Guam, Bataan and Corrigedor. The purpose of the raid was to destroy enemy installations and divert attention from the main action on Guadalcanal. 222 raiders dropped off on Makin by two submarines attacked the island defended by 43 Japanese soldiers. The offloading did not go as planned and the Americans were scattered when they landed. The raid did destroy Japanese supplies, but the extraction was equally difficult and took longer than anticipated. In the chaos, nine Marines were left behind, including Pvt. Pallesen. Nevertheless, the home front was heartened by the daring raid and it made big headlines and was even the basis for the movie Gung Ho. (The movie can be found on YouTube.)
The stranded Marines held out for nearly a month before being captured. The Japanese transferred them to Kwajalein. Japan informed the leadership there that no transfer of prisoners to Japan was practical. Rather than keep them prisoners there, the commanding officer had Pvt. Pallesen and the others beheaded on October 16, 1942. The commander was hanged for this war crime after the war.
Pvt. Pallesen's sacrifice is honored at the Honolulu Memorial.
I do not know what happened to his wife, Gertrude.
Thanks to Darillyn Lamb Starr for recommending that William be profiled.
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