Private Merlyn Lyle Thompson

Service Number: 328785

Birth and Early Life:
Merlyn Thompson was born around the year 1922. He was living in Dexter, Iowa in 1941.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Thompson was one of the millions of young Americans who rushed to enlist after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He joined the Marine Corps on December 15, 1941, and after graduating from MCRD San Diego in January, was assigned to Company D, Second Marines

Wartime Service:
Private Thompson was transferred to Company M, Third Battalion, Second Marines in the spring of 1942. He learned the operation of heavy machine guns and mortars – Company M was the battalion weapons company – and boarded a transport in the summer of 1942, bound for the invasion of the Solomons. The other two battalions of his regiment landed on the island of Gavutu, near Guadalcanal, on August 7, 1942. Thompson and his comrades were held in reserve, and listened to the sound of gunfire coming from the shore. It seemed much stronger than they had expected.

Date Of Loss:
Company M was landed on Gavutu on August 8, 1942. They were to mop up the last resistance on the island, then overrun an even smaller island, Tanambogo, which housed a seaplane base and a radio station, and was connected to Gavutu by a long causeway.

Although resistance was stronger than had been expected, the Marines took both islands with comparatively few casualties. One of those who fell was Private Merlyn Thompson. He probably died on Gavutu, when an American dive bomber mistook Marines on top of a hill for the enemy and released a 500 pound bomb into their midst.

Merlyn Thompson was listed as missing in action until August 9, 1943, when his status was officially changed to “killed.”

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Zella Thompson

Status Of Remains:

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

(1). “Company K moved up the hill to relieve parachute battalion elements in positions there. At 1330 Company K had just accomplished its mission when as SBD pilot dropped a bomb within company positions on the northwest nose of the hill. Three men were killed and nine wounded. Eight of the casualties were men of the supporting platoon of Company M.” Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal: History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II, Volume I

5 thoughts on “Private Merlyn Lyle Thompson

    1. Thanks very much for sharing, John. I recently got a copy of “The Leathernecks Come Through” by Lt. W. Wyeth Willard of the 2nd Marines. Chaplain Willard was tasked with creating the Gavutu cemetery with a team of volunteers, some of whom “fainted because of the heat or the sight of the bloody and stiffened bodies of their friends.” Considering the size of the task at hand – and that he had no trained help, or previous experience in creating a military cemetery – he did quite a remarkable job. (He was also involved in recording burials at Tarawa; the “Willard List” in his diary is at times more accurate than the official records.)

      He also has some very vivid descriptions of the battle itself, and of daily life during the long Guadalcanal campaign. Highly recommended read if you can find a copy.

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