PFC George Harold Bates

This is believed to be a photo of George Bates. (1)
This is believed to be a photo of George Bates. (1) Photo uploaded to Ancestry and FindAGrave by Jason Shaver.

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NAME:
George Harold Bates
NICKNAME: SERVICE NUMBER:
322630
HOME OF RECORD:
Riverbank, CA
NEXT OF KIN:
Mother, Mrs. Jennie Bates
DATE OF BIRTH:
1920
ENLISTED:
September 24, 1941
DATE OF DEATH:
October 9, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal B/1/2 PFC KIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
Drowning
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Private First Class
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Lost at sea, Sealark Channel
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Birth and Early Life:
George Bates was born in Kansas in 1920. He was the second child of Otis and Jennie Bates, a blue collar family from Independence County. At some point in the 1930s, the entire family decamped for the west and in 1940 every Bates of working age – Otis, Jennie, John, George, Lillian, Betty, and Dorothy – were working in a Riverside, California orchard, while Rose Ann, Dixie, and Samuel stayed home. John and George manned a chemical spray rig; neither had time to graduate high school, and “Bud” was compelled to abandon his education after the eighth grade.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
On September 24, 1941, Bud Bates joined the Marine Corps. He might have wanted to get in before called up by a draft board, or simply wanted to avoid a life working in the orchard. Reasons regardless, Bates trained at MCRD San Diego; he had only recently started with HQ, Department of the Pacific (he was a specialist fourth class with the Department of Supply) when Pearl  Harbor was attacked.

Wartime Service:
In the early spring of 1942, Private Bates was ordered to report to Company B, 1st Battalion, Second Marines; he 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 – Bud Bates was promoted to Private First Class during this time – then on June 9, 1/2 boarded the USS President Jackson. They spent two months sailing across the Pacific, setting 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, Bud Bates 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 Bates’ 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. 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.

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.

PFC Bates 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 George Bates, drowned in the channel, vanishing without a trace.

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Jennie Bates

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
WWII Memorial, Riverbank, CA.
_____
NOTES:
(1) This photograph was found attached to the record of George Harold “Bud” Bates on ancestry.com. The subject is wearing an Army rather than Marine uniform; while there is no indication that George ever served in the Army, the rest of the biographical and family information provided is sound. There is a possibility that George had some limited Army service immediately prior to World War 2 and left in order to join the Marine Corps; such a switch was not common, but also not unheard of.

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