Service Number: 293643
Birth and Early Life:
Salvatore Cracco was born on March 1, 1917. He was raised in a large Italian family in New York (Sal was the 6th of Antonio and Bessie Cracco’s 7 children) and was living at 834 155th Street in the Bronx at the time of his enlistment.
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Cracco left the Bronx for Parris Island on September 3, 1940. He trained with the First Recruit Battalion.
Service Prior to 1941:
Private Cracco’s first post was to Company G of the First Marine Brigade at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He arrived on the island on November 7, 1940, and remained there through the end of the year. January 1, 1941 saw Private Cracco transferred to Company C, Fifth Marines; he was promoted to PFC that summer.
Cracco’s battalion specialized in commando-style tactics; their commander, Merritt “Red Mike” Edson, was convinced that his men would be ideal for carrying out surgical-strike raids and was constantly pushing for greater autonomy to develop new ideas. However, when the war broke out, PFC Cracco and the First Battalion were still firmly a part of the Fifth Marine Regiment.
One month to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Cracco’s company became the First Separate Battalion; on February 16, they were re-named the First Raider Battalion.
PFC Cracco first saw action in the invasion of Tulagi, facing fairly heavy Japanese fire shortly after landing and then several days of hunting down stragglers and blowing up caves.
The Raiders shipped over to Guadalcanal on September 8 and landed near Tasimboko, where they had a sharp fight with a Japanese rearguard unit. After driving the enemy away, the Marines destroyed as many supplies as they could – making sure to liberate extra chow, cigarettes, and alcohol.
From Tasimboko, Cracco’s unit moved through the jungle and took up positions on an unnamed ridge. They hoped this would be a rest area, but Japanese bombings dashed those hopes, as did reports of an advancing infantry force. As scouts made contact with Imperial Army skirmishers, Cracco and his company did what they could to fortify their positions with no construction materials, little barbed wire, and an impenetrable layer of coral not far below the dirt.
The first Japanese attack came on the night of September 12, 1942, and it concentrated on Cracco’s Company C. The three rifle platoons were nearly surrounded and fell back, having done the bulk of the night’s fighting, but in their withdrawal left several men behind.
Date Of Loss:
By the end of the battle, nearly 700 Japanese troops had lost their lives, and 59 of Edson’s men were dead or missing.
One of those missing was 25-year-old Salvatore Cracco. He was lost in the confusion of the night battle; no accounts of his last moments are known to survive. Cracco’s remains were never located, and he was officially declared dead on September 15, 1943.
Note: Cracco was probably killed when his company’s position was overrun on the night of September 12-13. Due to the nature of the battle, many of the company’s dead were not recovered for several days, and many were unrecognizable. However, a lack of definitive eyewitness accounts make this merely speculation. His official date of loss is given as September 14, 1942.
Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Bessie Cracco
Status Of Remains:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.