Photograph from On Eternal Patrol memorial
Service Number: 299268
Birth and Early Life:
James Beecher was born in Baxley, Georgia, on August 6, 1919. His mother, Jeney, died that year at the age of 24, and Beecher was raised by his father, Shelton.
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Beecher joined the Marines on October 15, 1940; he trained at Parris Island and was assigned to duty at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
While in Cuba, Beecher joined Company A of the Fifth Marines. He was promoted to Private First Class a few months before Pearl Harbor was bombed, and after the attack volunteered to join an elite commando force then forming called Carlson’s Raiders. Formally known as the Second Marine Raider Battalion, their mission was to infiltrate enemy positions and carry out hit-and-run attacks on seemingly secure enemy garrisons. When Carlson decided on a raid that would require his men to travel nearly 2000 miles by submarine from the nearest friendly unit and attack a Japanese installation on Butaritari Island in the Makin atoll, the question on the minds of Corporal Beecher and his comrades was not “why” nor “how” but “when.”
“When” turned out to be August 17, 1942. The Raiders landed in the early morning hours, but faced stiffer resistance than they had anticipated. With casualties mounting and the successful completion of the mission in doubt, Carlson decided to withdraw as many men as he could to the submarines.
Date Of Loss:
The withdrawal began at dusk on August 18. Raiders dug out the small rubber boats they had carefully camouflaged, and began to row their exhausted way back towards the submarines. Wounds and fatigue took their toll; some of the Raiders never managed to leave the beach and were abandoned as the two companies bitterly retreated.
The last Raider to see James Beecher reported seeing his body tossing in the ocean. It had been badly mauled; the Raider was convinced that a shark had caught Beecher on his return to the submarine. (1)
Next Of Kin:
Father, Mr. Shelton Beecher
Status Of Remains:
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu.
(1) Wiles, Tripp. Forgotten Raiders of ’42: The Fate of the Marines Left Behind on Makin. pg 56.