Private Michael J. Beddla

Michael Beddla, date unknown (1)
Michael Beddla, date unknown (1)

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NAME:
Michael J. Beddla
NICKNAME: SERVICE NUMBER:
347391
HOME OF RECORD:
Rondout, IL
NEXT OF KIN:
Mother, Mrs. Gertrude Burgess
DATE OF BIRTH:
Unknown
ENLISTED:
January 22, 1942
DATE OF DEATH:
September 27, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal A/1/7 Private KIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
Unknown
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Private
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Unknown
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery & Memorial, Philippines


Birth and Early Life:
Little is known of Michael Beddla’s life before the war. He was raised in “a wide spot in the road that held about 175 residents” known as Roundout, Illinois; his next of kin was his mother, Mary Beddla.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Beddla joined the Marines on January 22, 1942; he was in Florida at the time, and was sent to Parris Island for boot camp. Following his graduation, he was assigned to Company A, First Battalion, Seventh Marines.

Wartime Service:
Private Beddla served with the 7th Marines through the rest of their training in the United States, and for several months of garrison duty in American Samoa. His first taste of combat came on September 18, 1942; only hours after landing on the island of Guadalcanal, his regiment was shelled by Japanese warships. Five days later, his battalion took part in a patrol towards the Matanikau River – instead of the remnants of a shattered Japanese army, they ran into strong resistance and suffered several casualties. The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller, ordered Beddla’s Company A to return to the main Marine perimeter to await further instructions. Company A, somewhat chastened after their first real scrap with the enemy, spent a couple of days in reserve.

Date Of Loss:
Beddla and his comrades were rousted out of their encampment shortly after breakfast on September 27, 1942. With the shouts of noncoms ringing in their ears, the enlisted men of Company A grabbed their weapons, drew ammo, stuffed rations into their pockets, and hurried to a nearby beach, where they gathered in front of a handful of Higgins boats. The temporary battalion commander, Major Otho Rogers, appeared and gave a quick, harried speech. Without much ado, the battalion hurried aboard the small boats and were soon tossing in the rough coastal waters.

Soon, the boats turned and headed for shore. The men weren’t sure what to expect; the plan was vague – land, advance, eliminate any opposition. Some might have worried at the prospect of their first landing under fire, but as it turned out, the landing was unopposed. The Marines splashed ashore, collected themselves, and began advancing inland.

The Japanese, far from being surprised by the landing, had chosen to bide their time. The Americans were collecting themselves 500 yards inland when the first enemy shells landed; the first salvo killed Major Rogers, and left the Marines without a leader. Desperate attempts to escape resulted in yet more casualties, and it was only thanks to the bravery of Marine pilots, Navy and Coast Guard sailors, and the indomitable Chesty Puller that any of First Battalion lived to tell the tale. As it was, they left behind more than two dozen of their comrades dead on the field.

One of those killed in the disastrous attack was Private Michael Beddla.

For more on this action, see Little Dunkirk.

In 1947, a partially destroyed skeleton was found in a shallow grave approximately one mile from Point Cruz, Guadalcanal. The majority of the skull was missing, but there was enough evidence for skilled personnel to put together a sketch. “Picture a very young man, of average body build, weighing 140 to 150 lbs” read the report. “The chin is of a sturdy construction with a small prominent bilateral chin. Since there are no skull or facial parts, this precludes any further disposition.”

These remains, buried as unknown X-214 in the Guadalcanal cemetery, were for a time believed to be those of Michael Beddla, and a detailed inquiry was undertaken to investigate. Sadly, the investigators ruled that a definitive identification could not be made, and the remains of Beddla – or one of his comrades – were once again buried as “unknown.”

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Mary Beddla

Status Of Remains:
Unknown

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
______
NOTES:
(1) Photo appeared in C. L. Waller, “A Testament to Patriotism,” Daily Herald (Suburban Chicago) 31 May 1999, page 4.

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