Private Joseph P. Karnaghon


Joseph Perry Karnaghon
458 S. Market Street, Springfield, MO
Father, Mr. Ernest Karnaghon
September 24, 1942
Guadalcanal B/1/7 Private KIA
Purple Heart
Buried in the field, vicinity of Matanikau River, Guadalcanal
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Birth and Early Life:
Joseph Karnaghon was born around the year 1921. He was raised in Springfield, Missouri, by his widowed father Ernest; Joe completed eight years of schooling before dropping out to work as a laborer for the National Youth Administration. Ernest was a familiar figure to Springfield commuters – he was one of the town’s oldest “paper boys.”

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Joe Karnaghon joined the Marine Corps early in 1942, and probably trained at MCRD San Diego.

Wartime Service:
Private Karnaghon’s first assignment was to the 22nd Marines – a brand-new regiment formed in California in June, 1942. The regiment was an “independent” unit, not attached to any larger organization, and as such was a natural choice to send to American Samoa for defense duty. The exotic allure of Samoa wore off quickly as the 22nd faced week after week of training – especially as reports of the exploits of the Raiders on Makin and Tulagi, and the First and Fifth Marines on Guadalcanal became common knowledge. Many men in the 22nd felt they were in danger of letting the war pass them by. Karnaghon’s Company K had suffered two casualties, but the unfortunate Marines (Sergeant James Rall and Private Ira Kohler) had disappeared on a fishing trip – hardly the glorious end that those who imagined their own death expected.

The Raiders had established a base on Samoa; their officers were well aware that some men in regular units were keen to join up, and if a recruit could pass the rigorous training, they were quite often snapped up into the ranks of Raiders. As Karnaghon cooled his heels on Samoa, the Raiders were earning fame at Guadalcanal. The Seventh Marines, an older but still untested unit, was gearing up to travel to the Solomon Islands as reinforcements, and Karnaghon may have worked an angle to secure a transfer to the 7th’s First Battalion, under the command of Major Lewis “Chesty” Puller. (1)

However he did it, Karnaghon arrived at Guadalcanal on September 18, 1942, as a member of Company B, 1/7.

Date Of Loss:
Private Karnaghon was killed in action on September 24, 1942. He had spent the a day and a half marching through the Guadalcanal jungle, searching for signs of the enemy along a trail to the Matanikau River. When the advance scouts in Company A ran into an outpost, sparking a firefight that pinned them in the open, Major Puller shouted for Company B to come forward and relieve the pressure. The Marines obeyed and ran straight into the same trap, suffering several casualties before the fading sunlight enabled them to slip away.

Joe Karnaghon was buried near where he fell, on the remote trail to the Matanikau. The location was marked, but the tide of war and the growing jungle made searching for his grave impossible after the war.

Joplin News-Herald, November 11, 1942.
Joplin News-Herald, November 12, 1942.

Next Of Kin:
Father, Mr. Ernest Karnaghon

Status Of Remains:
Buried on Guadalcanal

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
(1) The date, reason, and circumstances for Karnaghon’s transfer are unclear. As late as July, 1942 he was with Company K on Samoa. The practice of jumping units was not a regular phenomenon, but seems to have been accepted if not outwardly encouraged in the early days of the American offensive – any commander headed to battle would have been glad to take extra volunteers.

3 thoughts on “Private Joseph P. Karnaghon

  1. This was my Uncle . My father’s brother.I never met him as I wasn’t born yet but has been on my mind for some years, left out there on some hill in an unmarked grave ! Hope to have his remains returned home some day!

    1. I feel the same way you do. I am the nephew of John edward edwinson jr and did not know him, my fathers older brother. It looks to me they may have been in the same fire fight that day. I too wish they could have his remains returned home.My father named me after his older brother in which i am proud of, my aunt told me when i was young you were named after your uncle not your grandfather who was sr. I hope you get this reply and we get our wish. John Edward Edwinson III. N.H.

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