Private Robert Joseph Budd

Bob Budd, 1942. Photo from Don Moore’s War Tales.


Robert Joseph Budd
Syracuse, NY
Parents, Seeley & Yvonne Budd
April 21, 1922
January 9, 1942
August 27, 1942
Guadalcanal C/1/5 BAR man Private KIA
Machine gun fire
Purple Heart
Buried in the field, Guadalcanal
Tangani Church, Kokumbona, Guadalcanal
Manila American Cemetery & Memorial, Philippines

Birth and Early Life:
Bob Budd was born in New York State on  April 21, 1922. He grew up in Syracuse, and worked as a horse tender in a local stable before joining the service.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Budd enlisted on January 9, 1942. He trained at Parris Island with the Third Recruit Battalion, and after completing boot camp was assigned to Company C, First Battalion, Fifth Marines.

Wartime Service:
Private Budd trained in North Carolina and in New Zealand through the spring and summer of 1942. In August, his First Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel William E. Maxwell, landed on Guadalcanal.

Date Of Loss:
On August 27, 1942, Maxwell’s battalion was ordered into landing craft and chugged out into the bay. Those who were aware of the fate of  Colonel Frank Goettge’s patrol – which had begun in a similar fashion and cost the lives of many Marines from the regiment – may have been nervous about the mission. The officers were even more concerned as battalion commander Maxwell had not seen fit to inform his staff or his company commanders as to the exact objectives of their mission. They landed uneventfully at 0730, although some sharp-eyed Marines spotted Japanese food that turned out to still be warm – obviously, the enemy was nearby. (1)

Company C was told to move off and occupy  a series of ridges to defend against a possible flanking attack, but rough terrain, razor-sharp kunai grass, and intense heat made such a maneuver impossible. Stymied, they returned to the coast and fell in behind Company B, which had come under Japanese fire. Two machine guns, one located on a 100 foot bluff, the other on the jungle floor, formed a perfect mesh of bullets, cutting Company B off from the rest of the battalion. It would fall to Company C to extricate them.

Bob Budd was a fairly important man in his squad; he carried the heavy Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) which was the squad’s base of fire. Essentially a light machine gun with a smaller magazine, the BAR was a tough, reliable weapon that could put a great deal of lead downrange very quickly. Rifle tactics were based around the BAR; later in the war, a rifle squad of thirteen would field no less than three of the weapons. In August 1942, though, the lone BAR of  Corporal Charles L. Wolff, was tended by Budd and his assistant, Private Thomas Phillips.

As fate would have it, it was Charlie Wolff’s squad that would lead Company C into the rescue effort. Just as they stepped off, the Japanese machine guns changed their direction of fire. Bullets tore into Bob Budd’s chest and neck; Tommy Phillips was shot through the body as he grabbed for his friend and their precious BAR. The two Marines were likely dead before they hit the ground. Another Marine swooped in and grabbed the BAR; Charlie Wolff smothered a grenade with his rifle butt; the stumbling attack, plagued by indecision from the battalion commander, faltered to a halt. Eventually the Marines dug in for the night, with the intention of moving forward the next day. They buried Budd and Phillips side by side, where they had fallen, marking the spot with large mounds of sand. (2)

In the morning, the battalion moved on and took the town of Kokumbona after a brief firefight. They moved back to the main perimeter, leaving their dead buried in the field.

Next Of Kin:
Parents, Seely & Yvonne Budd

Ken Budd, Bob’s younger brother, vividly remembered the arrival of the Western Union telegram. It came a two o’clock in the morning; Ken was nine years old. “I can still hear my mother’s screams,” he wrote in 1991. And although the Army declared after the war that they had thoroughly searched the area, Ken was not ready to give up hope. He began searching for survivors of his brother’s platoon. There weren’t many, and after years of effort Ken was about to admit defeat. Then, as he told it, he saw his brother in a dream.

“Get a hold of Charlie Wolff,” said the dream, and gave an address and phone number. Amazingly, it turned out to be Charles L. Wolff, a former corporal from Company C. Wolff was able to fill in enough of the blanks in Ken’s research that he booked a flight for Guadalcanal in 1985.

As he retraced his brother’s footsteps towards the town of Kokumbona, Ken happened to stop at a Catholic mission, which had been built near the site of C/1/5’s attack in 1942. A year later, the Budd family hung a memorial plaque from the mission’s walls, honoring their son and Tom Phillips. Ken believed he had enough information to start digging, and hired a team of villagers. By a stroke of luck, the eldest of them happened to have been involved in numerous Graves Registration projects following the war.

Finding Robert Budd had not been one of them, as the Army had reported. Instead of searching for the remains, the Army team collected their laborers, drove to the next town, and went drinking. The report had been a cover-up for a team that had neglected its duty.

Enraged, Ken returned to the States and wrote to the Army about the report. He never received an acknowledgement. He made a third attempt in 1989, armed with aerial photographs, better knowledge of the terrain, and a Japanese combat veteran who became his close research friend. Once again, he was forced to return home without his brother. (3)

This photo, and the story of Ken Budd’s efforts to find his brother, appeared in the Syracuse Herald Journal on October 8, 1989.

In September 2007, a team from the US Army Corps of Engineers surveyed the area and found that a family had taken up residence on the spot. “Although there are buildings on the land, there is still a large open area conducive to an investigation,” they reported. “The next step, by the local team member, is to obtain permission to enter the property and determine the feasibility of searching the area using either conventional or electronic techniques.” (4) As of 2012, however, there has been no further appreciable action.

Status Of Remains:
Buried on Guadalcanal

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
Tangani Church, Kokumbona, Guadalcanal.
(1) Zimmerman, The Guadalcanal Campaign. Maxwell was relieved of his command and banished from Guadalcanal before the end of the day for this and several other command blunders.
(2) Don Moore’s War Tales. Charlie Wolff later received a Silver Star for his actions on August 27. Budd and Phillips’ burial was witnessed by squadmate Ralph Dodge, who later told his experiences to Bob’s younger brother Ken.
(3) “Readers Remember.” Syracuse Herald American, December 1, 1991, pg C4.
(4) Hadden, R. Lee. “The Geology of Guadalcanal: a Selected Bibliography of the Geology, Natural History, and the History of Guadalcanal.” US Army Corps of Engineers, September 2007

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