Recently, the DPAA announced that 1Lt. Justin Green Mills of Galveston, Texas has been accounted for. Read their press release here.
Mills enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1937 and became part of the Fifteenth Battalion based out of Galveston. Duty consisted largely of attending weekly drills, yet Mills rose steadily through the enlisted ranks. His proficiency with a rifle was noted, and for a few months in the summer of 1940, Sergeant Mills trained and competed with the Marine Corps Reserve rifle team. Shortly thereafter, he was assigned to active duty with the Second Marine Brigade.
Sergeant Mills’ leadership qualities were noted early in 1942, and he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He would serve as a platoon leader in Company C, 2nd Marines in the battle of Guadalcanal. His platoon was tasked with a landing on Florida Island, and Mills had a dramatic confrontation with the young coxswain piloting his landing craft. When the cox hesitated to get too close to the beach, Mills (in the words of historian Stanley Coleman Jersey) “looked at the young coast guardsman sternly, slowly unlatched the flap on his pistol holster, and calmly said, ‘Son, take us to the shore or you will be sorry.'” The boat was quickly put ashore. This same bellicose nature would later earn “Tex” Mills a Silver Star for gallantry in action.
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Second Lieutenant Justin G. Mills (MCSN: 0-11121), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands Area on November 3, 1942. Commanding a platoon of Company C, First Battalion, Second Marines Reinforced, in an attack against heavy hostile resistance along the beach on the right side of the zone of action, Second Lieutenant Mills, when his platoon encountered vigorous opposition, courageously pushed forward in the face of machine gun, mortar and point-blank 37-mm gunfire. Although his platoon suffered heavy casualties, he succeeded in capturing and holding his objective. His heroic devotion to duty, maintained at great risk in the face of grave danger, was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
In New Zealand, Mills was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant and took on the role of executive officer of C/1/2. His experience in battle gave him a degree of expertise in judging preparations for the upcoming operation GALVANIC. Allan Callow, a sailor aboard the USS Harry Lee, heard “Tex” Mills arguing about the planned pre-invasion bombardment. A junior ensign insisted that the Marines would walk ashore standing up; Tex challenged the ensign to take “his place in the lineup” if it were true.
Unfortunately, Mills turned out to be correct. He was struck in the head while climbing over the side of his landing craft on Red Beach 2; Gunnery Sergeant Stephen Falicki pulled the wounded officer back aboard, thinking he would be evacuated for medical treatment. However, Justin Mills never arrived at any hospital ship. Instead, he was reportedly buried in “Grave 49, Row B, Central Division Cemetery” on Betio after the battle.
According to the DPAA release, 1Lt. Mills’ remains were recovered from the site of the former “Cemetery 26” by a History Flight expedition in 2015.
An earlier version of this article, based on erroneous information, reported that Justin Mills was at one point buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific as an unknown.
Welcome home, 1Lt. Mills. Semper Fi.
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