Photo and biographical information from the South Dakota WWII Memorial.
William Martin Held
|HOME OF RECORD:
Sioux Falls, SD
|NEXT OF KIN:
Mother, Mrs. Emma Held
|DATE OF BIRTH:
October 7, 1918
January 6, 1942
|DATE OF DEATH:
October 8, 1942
|CAUSE OF DEATH:
Machine gun fire
|LAST KNOWN RANK:
Private First Class
|STATUS OF REMAINS:
Not recovered “due to battle conditions.”
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
Birth and Early Life:
William Held was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on June 7, 1918. He was the youngest of William and Emma Held’s five children, and by the time he graduated from high school was ready to put Sioux Falls behind him. “I’ve been ‘Held’ here long enough,” he quipped in his high school yearbook; yet adventure would have to wait – for the next three years, Held worked at a Red Owl grocery store in his hometown.
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
The attack on Pearl Harbor gave Held the impetus he needed to get out of South Dakota. He enlisted on January 6, 1942, and was quickly on his way to MCRD San Diego. After completing boot camp, Private Held was assigned to Company L, 3rd Battalion, Second Marines, which was undergoing additional training at nearby Camp Elliott in preparation for being sent to the South Pacific. During the spring of 1942, Held was promoted to the rank of Private First Class.
PFC Held first experienced combat on August 8, 1942, when his battalion landed on the small island of Gavutu, not far from Guadalcanal. Among the first sights he saw as he splashed ashore were the bodies of Paramarines who had been killed while landing the day before. Although Gavutu and nearby Tanambogo were mere specks of land, the Japanese defending them were as determined as if they’d been defending Honshu itself. Marines learned many hard and bloody lessons in jungle warfare before the islands were secured, and the presence of Japanese stragglers made it necessary for 3/2 to remain on the islands as a garrison force.
In September, Held’s Company L was ordered into small boats for a trip across Sealark Channel to Guadalcanal itself. The rest of the battalion followed within days, and was placed into reserve for the First Marine Division. They were to be used in an upcoming attack against troublesome Japanese positions along the Matanikau River; operating in support of the 7th Marines and the “Whaling Group” of highly trained scouts and snipers, 3/2 would cross the river and attempt to sweep down on the Matanikau village, flanking the Japanese defenders who would be occupied with defending their front from a simultaneous attack by the 5th Marines. The operation began as planned on October 7, and the Whaling Group made decent progress, even as the 5th Marines attack bogged down.
Date Of Loss:
Torrential downpours on October 8 forced the American commanders to slow the pace of their attack; Whaling’s cadre managed to cross the river, but could not press home its advance on the village itself.
At some point during the day, in the vicinity of the Matanikau itself, a Japanese machine gunner caught Company L in his sights. He let loose with a volley that mortally wounded Corporal Harold P. Kerner, and killed PFC William M. Held and Private Lloyd Hanson. The company muster rolls stated that, for both Held and Hanson, “due to battle conditions, the body was not recovered.”
Whether his comrades afforded William Held the dignity of a burial is unclear; no record of such an event has yet been found. His final resting place is unknown.
Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Emma Held
Status Of Remains:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines