Today, the DPAA announced that Gunnery Sergeant Arthur Branson Summers, of Poplar, Montana has been accounted for as of 17 October 2019. Read their press release here.
Arthur was born on 30 June 1916 and raised in Poplar, a small city on the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana, which boasted just over a thousand inhabitants. His father, also named Arthur (and sometimes given as “B. Arthur” or “Author” Summers) was the town’s veterinarian – a crucial profession in the relatively remote farming community, and one that he practiced as an officer of the Veterinary Corps in the Great War. The younger Arthur found the prospect of life in uniform appealing and, after graduating from high school, enlisted in the regular Marine Corps in November 1936. Within two months, Private Summers was aboard the USS Henderson bound for Chinwangtao (Qinhuangdao), China.
Summers would spend the first three years of his hitch in China, mostly with the embassy guards in Beijing (then called Peiping). Even in these early days, he showed a marked proficiency with all types of weapons – an expert with a rifle and bayonet, a sharpshooter with a BAR, and qualified with pistols and grenades. Summers enjoyed the Corps as well, and even before his first enlistment ran out made arrangements to extend. His climb through the ranks began in May of 1939 with a promotion to private first class; corporal’s stripes followed in February of 1940. Later that year, he rotated back to the United States to serve as a guard at the Mare Island Naval Prison, and added the third stripe of a sergeant. Soon, he was under consideration for the rank of platoon sergeant. “Summers is neat in appearance, of soldierly bearing, an excellent leader of men,” wrote his commanding officer in 1941, “and possesses all the professional qualifications of the rank for which he is recommended.” In February of 1942, another officer opined that “Sergeant Summers… has clearly demonstrated his efficiency in handling men. He is an excellent instructor… with the bayonet in particular. Sergeant Summers is neat in appearance and has an excellent military bearing. He has committed no offenses to date and has an average marking of 4.9 [out of 5, for proficiency].” Finally, the promotion was approved and Arthur Summers became a platoon sergeant at the age of twenty-five.
Despite the new rank, and the country in a state of war, Summers remained stationed in California, as the NCO in charge of the Marine Detachment at the parachute training center at Santee (later known as Camp Gillespie), although he was not a Paramarine himself. In the fall of 1942 he was considered for further promotion to the rank of First Sergeant, but Summers balked at this notion and requested to be removed from the list of candidates. “I do not feel that I am adaptable to for this duty,” he admitted, “and would prefer to be considered for promotion to the rank of gunnery sergeant.” The request was granted, but because there were fewer open billets for “Gunnys,” Summers remained a platoon sergeant.
In June of 1943, Summers departed from San Diego aboard the USS Rochambeau and crossed the Pacific with the 18th Replacement Battalion. He arrived in New Zealand on 17 July and was assigned to duty with Item Company, Third Battalion, 6th Marines. Finally, on 7 October 1943, Summers became a company gunnery sergeant.
Arthur Summers had dedicated seven of his twenty-seven years to the Corps; his combat career spanned just about twenty-four hours. On 23 November 1943, Gunny Summers was killed by gunshot wounds to the head and chest. His company was supporting units of the First Battalion, 6th Marines in fighting off a banzai charge during the battle of Tarawa. He was buried in a mass grave on Betio, Tarawa atoll, and lay there undiscovered until early 2019.
A History Flight expedition uncovered “Row D” and brought the remains back to the United States for laboratory analysis. Arthur Summers was identified on 17 October 2019, and has now been officially accounted for.
Welcome home, Gunnery Sergeant Summers. Semper Fi.
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