Randolph Allen’s family members never stopped trying to find out what happened to him after he was among the U.S. Marines who landed on the tiny island of Tarawa during World War II.
Often remembered only by Marines who’ve been held to blame for things that went wrong during and after the Battle of Tarawa, 6,400 lives were lost during the three-day amphibious assault. A documentary titled “With the Marines at Tarawa” contained scenes of actual American dead that were considered so disturbing the decision of whether or not to release it to the public was deferred to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Marines who fought in the battle were also often blamed for what came to be known as “The Forgotten Dead of Tarawa,” in direct conflict with their Corps’ objective to leave no man behind.
As military officials prepare to lay PFC Randolph Allen’s recovered remains to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, his nephew Roger Stanley says he is struggling to share the potential significance of the “snapshot in time” captured by the forensic evidence. If people study the circumstances, he says, they will find redemption for the Marines and direct evidence in opposition to the official stories.
“It’s not just emotional for my family, it’s emotional for this nation,” Stanley said, explaining a USMC veteran he works with was the first to emphasize the possible implications of the scene where Randolph’s remains were discovered along with the bodies of four Japanese Imperial Marines.
Randolph, a 17-year-old boy from Rush, was found far from any place official records would have suggested, Stanley said. The last record of Randolph’s unit was that of their commanding officer being shot after shouting “Follow Me,” and attempting to exit their amphibious landing craft at an area designated Red Beach One before he was shot and killed.
Randolph’s remains, however, were found near the front door of a bunker on Red Beach Two.
“No one was believed to have made it that far up the beach head called Red Beach Two ... Most were struck down during landing or going over the wall. Once past the wall was a huge bunker buried in the ground. In front of this bunker were two craters caused by naval bombardment. Later in the day, small destroyer shelling around the bunker would have kicked the sand high enough to seal the craters. That bunker was the doorway to Tarawa. If we knocked at Guadalcanal, and we kicked the door in at Tarawa, and the door at Tarawa was the bunker, who laid the first kick on that door at Tarawa?
“There is a snapshot in time — four Imperial Japanese Marines and one Tarawa Marine from Rush, Ky.,” Stanley said, later adding “This little 17-year-old guy from Rush jumped in that pit and took four of them out. According to all the official records, he should’ve never got over that wall or been where he was.”
Stanley notes the site where Allen’s body was recovered was one of few places on the small, sandy island that was considered a pristine site preserving actual battlefield conditions and all remains found as they fell. The landscape of the highly populated atoll in the Republic of Kiribati, in the central Pacific Ocean, has otherwise since been altered dramatically by inhabitants, frustrating many of the previous efforts to recover the missing dead Americans.
Allen was a Rush native and U.S. Marine private first class,who had been listed as Missing In Action since 1943, although his remains were recovered in November 2013. His name is engraved on the Boyd County War Memorial at Armco Park, but his final resting place will be Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, with his burial ceremony on July 29.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2651.