Private Bennie Albert Hawkinson

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NAME:
Bennie Albert Hawkinson
NICKNAME: SERVICE NUMBER:
346290
HOME OF RECORD:
Litchfield, MN
NEXT OF KIN:
Father, Mr. Swan Hawkinson
DATE OF BIRTH:
~1919
ENLISTED:
January 5, 1942
DATE OF DEATH:
October 9, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal B/1/2 Corporal Drowned
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Private
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Lost at sea, Sealark Channel
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Birth and Early Life:
Little is known about Bennie Hawkinson’s life before the war. He was born in Litchfield, Minnesota around the year 1919; his parents, Swan and Hilma Hawkinson, supported their family by farming.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Hawkinson enlisted in Minneapolis on January 5, 1942; he went through boot training at Camp St. Luis Obispo, California. Upon completing his training, he was assigned to Company B, First Battalion, Second Marines as a private.

Wartime Service:
At dawn on August 7, 1942, Private Hawkinson 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 Hawkinson’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.

Bennie Hawkinson 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 Hawkinson – drowned in the channel, vanishing without a trace.

Next Of Kin:
Father, Mr. Swan Hawkinson

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

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