Corporal John Matthew Strickland


John Matthew Strickland
Tallahassee, FL
Wife, Mrs. John Strickland
December 7, 1939
October 9, 1942
Guadalcanal B/1/2 Corporal KIA
Purple Heart
Lost at sea, Sealark Channel
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Birth and Early Life:
John Strickland was born in rural Wakulla County, Florida, on July 27, 1918. He was raised in Ivan Precinct, just outside the county seat of Crawfordville, on a farm belonging to Aaron and Lola Strickland. Few other details of his life before the war are available.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Strickland enlisted in the Marine Corps from Savannah, Georgia on December 7, 1939. He completed boot camp at Parris Island in February 1940 and, perhaps showing a desire to fly, was assigned to Base Air Detachment 1 at MCB Quantico, Virginia.

Service Prior to World War 2:
Private Strickland was not long for aviation; on March 14, 1940, he became a member of Fox Company, Second Battalion, 5th Marines. His next six months in uniform were unremarkable save for a temporary warrant promotion to Private First Class—it wasn’t until October, 1940 that Strickland would see a foreign shore. His company traveled from Quantico to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As part of the First Marine Brigade, Strickland bounced between Cuba and Puerto Rico for several months before being reassigned to A/1/5th Marines and returning to Quantico. He had seen a bit of the Caribbean and was becoming proficient in the handling of an automatic rifle, but as the halfway point in his tour approached, PFC Strickland’s service was strictly ordinary.

And then, two years to the day after he enlisted, Strickland suddenly found himself at war. It was December 7, 1941.

Wartime Service:
Strickland’s battalion was cleaved from the main body of the 5th Marines, and detailed to undergo training as a “separate battalion.” For reasons unknown, Strickland himself was soon detached from his comrades, promoted to corporal, and reassigned to Company B, First Battalion, 2nd Marines in the early spring of 1942. That summer, he boarded the USS President Jackson for a two-month sail across the Pacific. After leaving the United States, Strickland 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, Corporal Strickland 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 Strickland’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 groaned and creaked 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.

Corporal Strickland 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 John Strickland – drowned in the channel, vanishing without a trace.

Next Of Kin:
Wife, Mrs. Bernice Lee (Green) Strickland

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

2 thoughts on “Corporal John Matthew Strickland

  1. Thanks for the information. I am the only child of J.M Strickland, and a proud son. I was nine months old when my Dad died. My mother was Bernice Lee Green Strickland of Wakulla county Florida. My name is John Preston Strickland of Crawfordville, Fl. My dad did not live in Tallahassee, Fl. He lived in rural Wakulla County, Fl.

    1. Mr. Strickland – thank you for writing in, and for the correction. I’ve updated your father’s page to reflect this new information. If I can be of any help to you in the future, please let me know!


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