Service Number: 368895
Birth and Early Life:
George Grazier, the second son of Herbert and Madeline Grazier, was born in State College, Pennsylvania around the year 1921. He grew up with his family in the home of patriarch Charles Taylor, even after his mother remarried bread salesman Oscar Carter.
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
On January 26, 1942, Grazier traveled to Philadelphia to enlist in the Marine Corps. After his training at Parris Island, he was posted to Company A, First Marines.
Private Grazier was assigned to the First Platoon of the First Battalion of the First Regiment of the First Marine Division. He answered to Lieutenant John Jachym, who made the young Pennsylvanian his runner. Following training in North Carolina and a stop in New Zealand, Grazier landed on Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942.
For his first few days on the ‘Canal, Grazier focused on acclimatizing, staying alive, and running errands for Lieutenant Jachym. August 12 saw his platoon leaving friendly territory to provide security for a surveying team. While the engineers searched for a likely airfield site, the Marines from First Platoon sent out scouts – some of whom returned with worrying news. An American missionary in the village of Tatare reported a Japanese strong point not far away; after the Marines returned to their regiment, further intelligence suggested that the enemy was interested in advancing along the eastern perimeter – perilously close to Henderson Field, the key to the campaign
On the night of August 18, Captain Charles H. Brush Jr. called Lieutenant Jachym to his command post. How was First Platoon faring after their long march? “The men are fine,” Jachym said. “Good,” said Brush. “We’re going out again to get that machine-gun outfit you told us about. I’m going with you.” (1) Jachym returned to his platoon, summoned his NCOs, and spread the word – they would be going out in the morning, and they would be looking for a fight. His messenger, Private Grazier, was privy to the news as well – the twenty-year-old Marine spent an anxious night, wondering what the morning would bring.
Date Of Loss:
The patrol, consisting of Brush, Jachym, Grazier, and fifty-seven other Marines, departed from American lines at 0700 on August 19, 1942. They followed the now familiar route towards Tertere, but familiarity could not compensate for heat, humidity, heavy loads and short rations. By the time they reached the vicinity of Papanggu, even Captain Brush was ready for a break. He suggested that the patrol break for lunch in a shady area just off the trail.
One of the Marines remembered seeing an orange grove just a short distance away, and petitioned the captain to continue just a little farther – wouldn’t an orange be a nice addition to their recently reduced rations? Brush thought so. It would take about half an hour to reach the grove, but the reward was worth the effort.
The Americans had been on the move for fifteen minutes when the point man yelled in surprise. A Japanese patrol, headed the opposite way, had suddenly appeared out of the jungle. Both sides scrambled for their weapons; one Marine was killed immediately and the others dove for cover. (2) Acting quickly, Brush separated his force – one part would pin down the disorganized enemy, while the other under Jachym would work around the flank. Private Grazier stuck close to his lieutenant; this was his first experience in combat. No matter that it was the lieutenant’s first, and the first for every American on the patrol, Grazier knew his job and was determined to carry it out.
As the fight continued, two Japanese machine guns deployed and began shooting back at the Marines. The struggle for fire superiority was in danger of shifting to the enemy, and soon half the patrol was pinned by the accurate, heavy fire. Ducking between the trees, Grazier located the machine gun, but couldn’t get a shot at the crew – and then decided to do something desperate. If he could only get out on the beach, he would have a clear field of fire.
So focused was Private Grazier that he ignored every nerve and fiber in his body that screamed to find some cover. He raced out into the open, and began firing at the machine gun as fast as he could pull the trigger. The enemy gunner turned to bring his weapon to bear on the Marine, and cut him down with a well-aimed burst. However, the distraction had been enough; the Americans regained the upper hand and within an hour all but three of the Japanese were dead or dying. (3)
George Grazier’s body was laid down beside those of Private James “Ice Man” Buckhalt and PFC Jack Gardner. Fearing a counterattack, the American buried their comrades quickly, leaving their boondockers sticking out of the sand to make the graves easier to find. However, the following weeks and months of battle destroyed any sign of their remains; Graves Registration personnel were unable to locate them in the years after the war, and they lie today where their friends buried them in 1942.
For his bravery, George Grazier was awarded the Navy Cross medal.
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to George H. Grazier (368895), Private, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism and conspicuous devotion to duty as a Platoon Runner with the First Platoon of Company A, First Battalion, First Marines, FIRST Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 19 August 1942. Participating in a patrol near the village of Papangu, Private Grazer, when a hostile automatic weapon pinned two squads of Marines to the ground, boldly ran out on an exposed beach in order to bring his own fire to bear on the enemy and was killed in the attempt. His courageous initiative and complete disregard for his own personal safety were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave up his life in the defense of his country. (4)
Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Madeline Carter
Status Of Remains:
Buried on Guadalcanal
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
(1) Hammel, Eric. Guadalcanal: Starvation Island page 162.
(2) Ibid, pg 163
(3) Investigation of the bodies revealed that the patrol had been from a freshly arrived Imperial Army regiment. This unit, the Ichicki Detachment, would become famous for their defeat at the battle of the Tenaru a few days later.
(4) Hammel recounts Grazier’s action thusly: “A runner was shot and killed as he recklessly stormed across a tiny creek to get at the Japanese.” Guadalcanal: Starvation Island pg 163.