Service Number: 297389
Birth and Early Life:
William Dutton was living in Cody, Wyoming at the time of his enlistment.
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
After enlisting in Cincinatti, Ohio, Dutton traveled to Parris Island, South Carolina. He completed boot camp and a course with the Signal Detachment at Quantico, Virginia, Dutton was assigned to the Eleventh Marines.
Dutton was with Battery A of the Eleventh until the spring of 1942. He was promoted to corporal and reassigned to Battery H while still at New River, North Carolina. Dutton’s primary duties were with the battery’s headquarters as a communications specialist.
That summer, Dutton’s Third Battalion crossed the United States to San Diego, and boarded a transport to New Zealand. After 22 days aboard ship, most were anxious to get back to dry land and didn’t care that they would be made to perform a series of conditioning hikes – nor that their next destination would be combat on Guadalcanal.
The Eleventh Marines spent most of their first day on Guadalcanal hauling their guns ashore, and making endless trips to the beach for ammunition. The second day was much the same, with the added excitement of air raids. Almost without exception, this was their first experience in battle, and there was a fair degree of nervousness – stories of Japanese infiltration were commonly reported and believed. Trigger-happy Marines were apt to shoot at anything that moved after dark.
Date Of Loss:
The nighttime tension of the predawn hours of August 9, 1942, was exacerbated by the constant naval gunfire of the Battle of Savo Island, which was clearly audible and visible from where the Eleventh had set up in bivouac.
Someone on the Marine lines heard a shot, or thought they heard one, and the artillerymen reached for their rifles and machine guns, firing blindly into the darkness. One of the casualties of the nighttime spat was Sergeant Dutton. Corporal James R. “Rube” Garrett of Battery I remembered the scene that night:
No air raids for a change. There was however a naval battle. We lost five cruisers, six destroyers and we lost the Vincennes and the Australian Canberra. Also, later we learned that we had lost the Astoria and the Quincy. I spent most of the night under a truck during the battle because it was raining and we were moving to a new position. There was Jap snipers and machine gun fire. Dutton was killed and we also killed a cow to the rear of the battery in the dark – we didn’t know what it was. (1)
Next Of Kin:
Parents, Mr & Mrs William A. Dutton
Status Of Remains:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
(1) A Marine Diary: My Experiences on Guadalcanal by J. R. Garrett. Garrett notes that his battalion was in a coconut grove and not in defensive positions; they were in a convoy setting as they were to move out early the next morning.