Corporal Aubrey John Wagner


Aubrey John Wagner
Bend, OR
Father, Mr. Samuel Wagner
August 22, 1941
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:
Aubrey Wagner was born in Colorado in 1917. He and his siblings were raised in Bend, Oregon, by Sam and Christine Wagner, and attended the local schools; Aubrey completed three years of high school before dropping out to work as a transfer man for a local transportation company.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Wagner joined the Marine Corps in August, 1941. He completed boot camp at MCRD San Diego – he qualified as a rifle marksman –  and had just been assigned to his first unit – Company A, Second Marine Regiment – when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Wartime Service:
Private Wagner transferred to Company C of the Second Marines on January 19, 1942; he was promoted to Private First Class nine days later. By April (the exact date is unknown) he was serving with Company B of the same regiment, with the two stripes of a corporal. He shipped out for the Pacific that summer.

Corporal Wagner 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 Wagner’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.

Corporal Wagner 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 Aubrey Wagner – drowned in the channel, vanishing without a trace.

The Bend Bulletin, Bend, Deschutes County, Oregon, Dec. 30, 1942.  Posted to FindAGrave memorial by user Pam R.
The Bend Bulletin, Bend, Deschutes County, Oregon, Dec. 30, 1942.
Posted to FindAGrave memorial by user Pam R.

Next Of Kin:
Father, Mr. Samuel Wagner

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

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