Private Edward Swift Ahrens



Edward Swift Ahrens
1022 5th Ave, Oakland, CA
Sister, Miss Elsie G. Ahrens
October 2, 1924
December 17, 1941
October 9, 1942
Guadalcanal B/1/2 Private KIA
Purple Heart
Lost at sea, Sealark Channel
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Birth and Early Life:
On October 2, 1924, Edward Swift Ahrens was born to Charles and Christina Tripp Ahrens of Montebello, California. His mother was a native of Hawaii; when she died in 1927, her husband and children buried her in Rose Hills Memorial Park and went to visit with the Tripps in Honolulu. It would be Edward’s first voyage in the Pacific, but not his last.

Ahrens grew up in Tulare, California, the youngest of four children. Charles supported his family first as a bus driver, then as owner of a small orchard. Edward was the last child remaining at home when he turned seventeen in October, 1941; one more year of high school and he, too, would enter the workforce.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
The attack on Pearl Harbor changed any plans Ahrens had for the future; he enlisted in the Marine Corps ten days later, on December 17, 1941. Although not technically of age to serve, he may have obtained permission from his father or lied to the recruiting office to get accepted to the Second Recruit Battalion at MCRD San Diego.

Wartime Service:
After completing boot camp, Private Ahrens was ordered to report to Company B, 1st Battalion, Second Marines; he arrived with a handful of other new Marines on January 24, 1942. America had been at war for just over a month, and most of the privates in his company had been on active duty for even less time. Ahrens was assigned to the company’s Second Platoon, under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Floyd E. Parks. For the next six months, the regiment trained in California, then on June 9, 1/2 boarded the USS President Jackson for a two-month sail across the Pacific. The regiment set foot on land only once before making an awkward and embarrassing mock landing on the island of Koro. There was no time for a second rehearsal; the ships weighed anchor and steamed off for the Solomon Islands.

At dawn on August 7, 1942, Private Ahrens made his first combat landing; his company assaulted Florida Island in support of the landings on Guadalcanal just a few miles away. They encountered no live enemy and quickly secured their objective. Later that day 1/2nd Marines re-boarded their landing craft to return to the USS President Jackson, but Company B was diverted and ordered to make a landing on Tanambogo under cover of darkness. Planners hoped that the assault would relieve some of the pressure on the Paramarines fighting on nearby Gavutu, but the Japanese discovered the company’s boats and opened fire. Only a third of the men, mostly from First Platoon, made it to shore; the rest were driven off. The role that Ahrens’ Second Platoon played is unknown, but they likely never touched dry land on Tanambogo.

Company B rejoined their battalion on now-conquered Tulagi a few days later (where another young Marine named Edward Ahrens died a hero). For the next two months, they garrisoned the tiny island. There were no Japanese to fight and little else to do; the men occupied themselves by building shelters, constructing fortifications they would never use (at least one company built a double line of barricades from sharpened eight foot logs, simply to stay busy), standing guard duty, and battling boredom. The first cases of malaria and dysentery were reported, and the worst cases evacuated.

One milestone occurred while Ahrens was stationed on Tulagi – he celebrated his eighteenth birthday on October 2.

Date Of Loss:
On October 9, 1942, Lieutenant Parks called his platoon together for a briefing. They were finally leaving Tulagi and heading for the fighting on Guadalcanal – and would be making a combat landing at the village of Aola, thirty miles from the nearest friendly forces. Most of the Marines welcomed this break in the monotony, and spent the day packing up their few belongings and combat loading their packs.

That evening, Second Platoon climbed into a Higgins boat tethered to a YP craft that would tow them the twenty miles from Tulagi to Aola. Night had fallen by the time they reached the center of Sealark Channel; the plywood Higgins boats groaning and creaking under the strain of their load. Each YP boat towed four Higgins boats lashed together in a chain, which meant the first boat in the chain took the most stress.

Edward Ahrens and his platoon were unfortunate enough to be in the first boat. When their YP suddenly increased its speed, the plywood hull of the Higgins boat split in half, dumping Second Platoon into the channel. Loaded down as they were for a combat landing, many of the Marines never had a chance to get out of their gear. Fourteen Marines of Second Platoon – including eighteen year old Private Ahrens – drowned in the channel, vanishing without a trace.

Next Of Kin:
Sister, Miss Elsie G. Ahrens

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

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