|Troops from 132nd Infantry Regiment on Mt. Austen where Pvt. Purcell was killed attacking Japanese.|
Lester W. Purcell never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on April 22, 1917 in Illinois. His parents were also both born in Illinois. His father was a farmer who also worked as a garage mechanic. Lester had an older sister and one younger brother.
By 1941 Lester had completed one year of high school and was working as a farm hand. Lester enlisted in the army on April 25, 1941.
He was a private in the 132nd Infantry Regiment, Americal Division. This was one of the first army regiments sent overseas. It left New York in January 1942 and arrived in Australia by February. By May it was attached to the Americal Division in New Caledonia which was assigned to augment and then relieve the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal.
Pvt. Purcell and the 132nd Infantry Regiment landed on Guadalcanal on December 8, 1942. By the second week on island the 132nd was ordered to drive the Japanese off of Mt. Austen. This hill was high ground that allowed the Japanese to keep an eye on Henderson Field. The Japanese position was their strongest on the island and it took more than a month to clear them off the hill. Pvt. Purcell was killed on December 27, 1942 when the Americans unsuccessfully combined a frontal assault with a flanking maneuver. He was one of 250 troops killed taking Mt. Austen.
His remains were returned to be buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
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