Private Demosthen P. Damelos

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NAME:
Demosthen P. Damelos
NICKNAME: SERVICE NUMBER:
335671
HOME OF RECORD:
824 Central Ave, San Francisco, CA
NEXT OF KIN:
Father, Mr. Christ Damelos
DATE OF BIRTH:
January 21, 1923
ENLISTED:
December 18, 1941
DATE OF DEATH:
October 9, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal B/1/2 Private KIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
Drowning
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Private
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Lost at sea, Sealark Channel
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial


Service Number: 335671

Birth and Early Life:
Demosthen was the son of Greek café owner Christopher “Christ” Damelos and his American-born wife, Catherine. Though born in Chicago on January 21, 1923, Demosthen spent most of his childhood growing up in the family restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri. The family moved out to San Francisco in the 1930s; Christopher and Catherine’s marriage dissolved not long after. Demosthen stayed on with his father until the attack on Pearl Harbor changed his life.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Damelos joined the Marines on December 18, 1941. He qualified as a marksman before completing his training at MCRD San Diego, and was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, Second Marines on January 28, 1942.

Wartime Service:
Private Damelos was with C/1/2 for only a short time; within weeks he transferred to the battalion’s Company B and found a home in Second Platoon, commanded by Second Lieutenant Floyd E. Parks. By June, his battalion had boarded the USS President Jackson for a two-month sail across the Pacific. They 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 Damelos 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 Damelos’ 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.

Private Damelos 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 Demosthen Damelos – drowned in the channel, vanishing without a trace.

Next Of Kin:
Father, Mr. Christ Damelos

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

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