Perry D. McElreath never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on December 28, 1917 in Texas. His parents were also both born in Texas. His father worked as a farmer and died in 1925. Perry had two older sister and four older brothers. By 1940 Perry had completed four years of high school and was living with his widowed mother.
He enlisted in the US Marines in October 1941 and became a sergeant in Company E, 2nd Battalion, 20th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division. The 4th MD was formally activated in August 1943. It saw action for the first time in Kwajalein in January 1944. It next participated in the Battle of Saipan which lasted from June 15 to July 9, 1944.
On the last day of the battle, the 4th MD advanced to Marpi Point, at the northern tip of the island. An officer in Sgt. McElreath's unit wrote:
During this day as we moved along the cliffs and caves, we uncovered civilians all the time. The Jap soldiers would not surrender, and would not permit the civilians to surrender. I saw with my own eyes women, some carrying children, come out of the caves and start toward our lines. They'd be shot down by their own people. I watched any number of women carrying children come down to the cliffs that dropped to the ocean.
They were very steep, very precipitous. The women would come down and throw the children into the ocean and jump in and commit suicide. I watched one group at a distance of perhaps 100 yards, about eight or ten civilian men, women and children get into a little huddle and blow themselves up. . . . It was a sad and terrible thing, and yet I presume quite consistent with the Japanese rules of Bushido.
The Americans lost 3,426 men during those 24 days and the 4th Marines lost 27 percent of its strength to casualties. Sgt. McElreath died on the last day of the battle, perhaps in the act of trying to stop the Japanese civilians from killing themselves.
His grave is at Edith Ford Memorial Cemeteries in Canadian, Texas.
Updated 12.30.2017: Thanks to Joe Irvine who found this picture of Perry McElreath.
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