Private Frank Lee Buchanan


Frank Lee Buchanan
4185 Cambell Street, Dearborn, MI
Mother, Mrs. Ida Mae Buchanan
January 20, 1942
September 24, 1942
Guadalcanal B/1/2 Private KIA
Purple Heart
Lost at sea, Sealark Channel
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Birth and Early Life:
Franklin Buchanan Junior was born in Dearborn, Michigan, around the year 1926. He was the oldest son of Franklin and Ida Buchanan. Little else is known about his life before the war; he enlisted from Alabama (his mother’s home state), giving his name as “Frank Lee” rather than Franklin. (The reasons for this are unknown; however, if Buchanan was really as young as census records suggest, he may have enlisted under a false name to avoid getting parental permission.)

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Buchanan trained with the Twelfth Recruit Battalion at MCRD San Diego. Boot camp was difficult for most recruits, but Private Buchanan had a particular problem; he was removed from his training platoon and placed in hack under suspicion of a fraudulent enlistment, meaning he had lied on his official paperwork. Although eventually cleared of the charges against him, the delay of more than a month meant that every boot camp friend Buchanan made was long gone by the time he completed his training.

Wartime Service:
Private Buchanan was sent to the Second Marines at the eleventh hour; within weeks of his arrival, his battalion (First Battalion; Buchanan was a member of Company B) boarded the USS President Jackson for a two-month sail across the Pacific. After leaving the United States, Buchanan 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 Buchanan made his first combat landing on August 7, 1942; 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 Buchanan’s 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 Floyd E. 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.

Frank Buchanan 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 Private Buchanan – drowned in the channel, vanishing without a trace.

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Ida Mae Buchanan

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

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