Back From Tarawa: James, Newell, and Murray

Note: Post updated to include PFC Murray, announced 20 June.

Today, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency today released the news that two more Marines killed in action at Tarawa have been accounted for.

Private Archie William Newell…

…age twenty-two and raised in Lemmon, South Dakota, was a recon guide with Company C, Second Tank Battalion. Guides were responsible, in part, for searching out safe passage for tanks – a dangerous job that required them to be on foot, walking ahead of the vehicle and showing the way with signal flags. PFC Melvin Swango, another guide, recalled:

Our mission was to guide the tanks around the bomb craters on the 800 yards of reef…. There were about twenty of us, all in one Higgins boat. By the time we hit the edge of the reef the machine-gun fire was so intense it was tearing through the bulkhead of the Higgins boat. I would guess that maybe five or six of the men fell to the deck there, either killed or wounded. We just left them in the boat…. They landed us right at the edge of the reef and we started wading in…. Wherever we found a bomb crater, one man would stand there to wave the tanks around it, because if a tank got into that bomb crater the men couldn’t get out. It would sink like a rock.

Machine-gun fire was so intense it was like raindrops in the water all around us. Each time I looked around, there would be fewer of us. A man would simply sink beneath the water, and that would be the end of him. Most of the tanks got in. Then it was up to us to follow the tanks in, if there were any of us left, and replace the tank crews wherever necessary. I only know of three of us who survived.

Quoted in Tanks In Hell: A Marine Corps Tank Company on Tarawa by Oscar E. Gilbert.

Private Newell was reported as missing in action on 20 November 1943; his status was later changed to Killed In Action, but his burial location was not recorded. Jennifer Morrison notes that “left to mourn Archie were his parents, Archie Francis & Thresia May (Stevens) Newell, and younger sisters, Laura Mae and Joyce Elaine. He was preceded in death by his brother, Elmer.”

* * *

Private First Class Ray James…

…age twenty-one and hailing from Sylvarena, Mississippi, served with Company F, Second Battalion, 8th Marines. Ray and his twin brother Roy enlisted together on 3 December 1942, went through boot camp together, and shared a dream of becoming Marine parachutists at Camp Gillespie. Roy dropped out when an injury sent him to the hospital in April 1943; Ray washed out the following month, and briefly attended tank training before landing at the Camp Elliott infantry school. Roy and Ray both sailed for New Zealand as members of replacement battalions (the 22nd and 24th, respectively) and upon arrival were assigned to the Second Marine Division. Roy became an artilleryman with Battery A, 10th Marines, while Ray joined the infantry company F/2/8.

Ray James’ name on the muster roll for 2/8. Of the Marines listed here, Fazekas, Griffon, and Krchmar are still unaccounted for. “Rabbit” Mathies was accounted for in May 2016.

On 20 November 1943, PFC Ray James and twenty-six other Marines of Fox Company lost their lives on the island of Betio, just off Beach Red 3. Roy survived the war, only to die in 1966 at the age of forty-four. Jennifer Morrison notes that “Left to mourn Ray were his parents, Luther Hinds & Sallie Anne (Huff) James, and 11 siblings, Gladys Viola, Joseph Truman, Phillip, Luther Henry, Frances Vida, William, Sally Ruth, Blanche Myrtle, Roy (twin) and Bettie Lou.”

* * *

Private First Class George Bernard Murray…

…age twenty and from Oceano, California, was killed in action on 20 November 1943 while serving with Company B, First Battalion, 2nd Marines. He was accounted for on 9 June 2017, and formally announced on 20 June. More information forthcoming.


Read the DPAA announcements for Private Newell,  PFC James, and PFC Murray. Keep an eye on the Accounted For page for more on these Marines, and check out the updated Cost Of Tarawa map.

3 Replies to “Back From Tarawa: James, Newell, and Murray”

  1. “Roy and Ray both sailed for New Zealand as members of replacement battalions (the 22nd and 24th, respectively) and upon arrival were assigned to the Second Marine Division….” I have some 1943 photo’s of some of these men. Only one (Will Ueckert from Texas) is identified by surname, and I’ve been able to send his photo to his family. I’d be happy to send the photo’s on to you. It would be great if we could find surviving relatives.

    1. Hi Mike,

      That would be an incredible project, to be sure! Do you know what unit is depicted in the photos? (Ueckert appears to have been in the 4th Defense Battalion.) If we can nail down the unit and the date, pulling up a muster roll is no problem, and that might help identify the rest.


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