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eMedals-United States. A Purple Heart to Private Creech, Jr., United States Marine Corps, KIA during the Battle of Tarawa, 1943

Item: AZ038

United States. A Purple Heart to Private Creech, Jr., United States Marine Corps, KIA during the Battle of Tarawa, 1943

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United States. A Purple Heart to Private Creech, Jr., United States Marine Corps, KIA during the Battle of Tarawa, 1943


Two-piece construction, in sterling silver gilt with purple and white enamels, engraved "PVT. JOHN J. CREECH, JR USMC." on the reverse, measuring 35 mm (w) x 43.5 mm (h), original ribbon with brooch pinback, intact enamels, in its hardshelled "coffin-style" case of issue, extremely fine. Accompanied by a Gold Star Memorial Badge (two-piece construction, silver USMC insignia mounted to a silver gilt star base, measuring 30.7 mm (w) x 29 mm (h), horizontal pinback, scattered gilt wear); a Photograph of Private Creech, Jr. (black and white, gloss finish, obverse illustrating Private Creech, Jr. in his USMC Uniform and standing in a garden setting, reverse handwritten in blue ink "SAM'S BROTHER / UNCLE JOHN / DIED AT 22 IN COMBAT WWII", measuring 85 mm (w) x 130 mm (h), horizontal crease in the center); along with copies of his Service Records and Letters Written to and by his Family.

 
Footnote: John James Creech, Jr. was born on February 23, 1921 in rural Antigo, Langlade County, Wisconsin, the son of John James Creech, Sr. and Annie P. Creech (nee Fraley), both of whom were born in Kentucky. His father was a farmer by trade, while his mother was a housewife, the family Catholic by faith. John Jr. was the ninth of nine children and weighed 1.5 pounds at birth. The family was "dirt poor" and other than John, who was born in a hospital, they were all born in a log cabin with an earthen floor. Four of the nine children never reached adulthood. The linage of the Creech family can be traced to 1622, as the original Creech emigrated from Scotland, the Creeches also having fought on both sides during the Civil War. John Jr. attended grammar school for eight years in Polar, Wisconsin, finishing Grade 8, at which point left school. His interests included: Baseball, Softball, Bowling, Hunting, as well as being a member of the 4H Club. He worked for three years in farming, planting grain, then one and a half years as an Electroplater with Gits Brothers Manufacturing in Chicago, Illinois, producing covers for oil seals, gears for airplanes, oil cups, springs for oilers and oil lines with a nickel coating, along with doing buffing and polishing, mixing acids for pickling and brass braising, followed by one and half years with Carnegie Steel as an Auto Mechanic. John Creech, Jr. enlisted as a Private (386354) with the United States Marine Corps, on April 7, 1942 at Chicago, Illinois. By May 1942, he was training in San Diego, California with the 2nd Recruit Battalion. He was transferred to the Naval Air Station in Seattle, Washington in June 1942 and spent some time training in Bremarton, Washington. He was classed as an Automotive Equipment Operator, his military specialty, in June 1943. He returned to California in August 1943, where he was posted to the 26th Replacement Battalion at Camp Elliott. Private Creech embarked San Diego, California aboard the Anchorage-class dock landing ship USS Mount Vernon (LED-39) on September 21, 1943, arriving in Noumea, New Caledonia on October 4thTwo days later, he embarked Noumea aboard the Evacuation Transport USS Tryon (APH-1) on October 6th, arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on the 10th, where he joined Company "B", First Battalion, 8th Marines. After two and a half weeks in New Zealand, he embarked Wellington aboard the Ormsby-class attack transport USS Sheridan (APA-51) on October 28th, arriving at Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands on November 20th, where he would be in combat during the Battle of Tarawa. The battle itself was fought from November 20 to 23, 1943 and was part of Operation Galvanic, the American invasion of the Gilberts. Nearly 6,400 Japanese, Koreans, and Americans died in the fighting, mostly on and around the small island of Betio, in the extreme southwest of Tarawa Atoll. The Battle of Tarawa was the first American offensive in the critical Central Pacific region. It was also the first time in the Pacific War that the United States faced serious Japanese opposition to an amphibious landing. Previous landings met little or no initial resistance, but on Tarawa, the 4,500 Japanese defenders were well-supplied and well-prepared, and they fought almost to the last man, exacting a heavy toll on the United States Marine Corps. U.S. Divisions suffered similar casualties throughout the duration of other previous campaigns, such as over the six months of the Guadalcanal Campaign, but the losses on Tarawa were incurred within the space of seventy-six hours. The American invasion force to the Gilberts was the largest yet assembled for a single operation in the Pacific, consisting of seventeen aircraft carriers (six CVs, five CVLs, and six CVEs), twelve battleships, eight heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, sixty-six destroyers, and thirty-six transport ships. On board the transports was the 2nd Marine Division and a part of the Army's 27th Infantry Division, for a total of about 35,000 troops. As the invasion flotilla hove to in the predawn hours, the island's four 8-inch guns opened fire. A gunnery duel soon developed as the main batteries on the battleships USS Colorado and USS Maryland commenced counter-battery fire. This proved accurate, with several of the 16-inch shells finding their marks. One shell penetrated the ammunition storage for one of the guns, setting off a huge explosion as the ordnance went up in a massive fireball. Three of the four guns were knocked out in short order. One continued its intermittent, though inaccurate, fire through the second day. The damage to the big guns left the approach to the lagoon open. Following the gunnery duel and an air attack of the island at 0610, the naval bombardment of the island began in earnest and was sustained for the next three hours. Two minesweepers, with two destroyers to provide covering fire, entered the lagoon in the pre-dawn hours and cleared the shallows of mines. A guide light from one of the minesweepers then guided the landing craft into the lagoon, where they awaited the end of the bombardment.
 
The plan was to land Marines on the north beaches, divided into three sections: Red Beach 1 on the far west of the island, Red Beach 2 in the center just west of the pier, and Red Beach 3 to the east of the pier. Green Beach was a contingency landing beach on the western shoreline and was used for the D+1 landings. Black Beaches 1 and 2 made up the southern shore of the island and were not used. The airstrip, running roughly east-west, divided the island into north and south. Marine battle planners had expected the normal rising tide to provide a water depth of five feet over the reef, allowing their four-foot draft Higgins boats room to spare. However, on this day and the next, the ocean experienced a neap tide (the sun and moon at 90 degrees, causing a minimum tide) and failed to rise. In the words of some observers, "the ocean just sat there", leaving a mean depth of three feet over the reef. A New Zealand liaison officer, Major Frank Holland, who had fifteen years experience of the Tarawa Atoll, warned that there would be at most three feet depth due to the tides. Colonel David Shoup was the senior officer of the landing forces and warned his troops that there would be a 50-50 chance that they would need to wade ashore. It would prove unfortunate that the attack was not delayed until more favorable spring tides. The supporting naval bombardment lifted and the Marines started their attack from the lagoon at 0900, thirty minutes later than expected, but found the tide had not risen enough to allow their shallow draft Higgins boats to clear the reef. Only the tracked Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT) "Alligators" were able to get across. The LVT were an amphibious warfare vehicle and amphibious landing craft, introduced by the United States Navy. With the pause in the naval bombardment, those Japanese who had survived the shelling were again able to man their firing pits. Japanese troops from the southern beaches were shifted up to the northern beaches. As the LVTs made their way over the reef and into the shallows, the number of Japanese troops in the firing pits slowly began to increase, and the volume of combined arms fire the LVTs faced gradually intensified. The LVTs had a myriad of holes punched through their non-armored hulls, and many were knocked out of the battle. Those "Alligators" that did make it in proved unable to clear the sea wall, leaving the men in the first assault waves pinned down against the log wall along the beach. A number of "Alligators" went back out to the reef in an attempt to carry in the men who were stuck there, but most of these LVTs were too badly holed to remain seaworthy, leaving the Marines stuck on the reef some 500 yards off shore. Half of the LVTs were knocked out of action by the end of the first day. 386354 Private John James Creech, Jr., United States Marine Corps was initially declared "Missing in Action" on November 20, 1943, which was later changed to "Killed in Action", at the age of 22, as his remains were "non-recoverable". As he was one of the Marines declared "Missing in Action" on the first day of the assault, it is likely that he was one of the many Marines that were killed in trying to get to the beach, cut down by machine gun fire in the water, as the transports were forced to stop hundreds of yards from the beach due to the low tide. In a letter from the USMC addressed to his father, John James Creech, Sr., dated January 18, 1944, it stated that Creech Jr. had "been missing in action since 20 November, 1943 when he failed to return to his organization after contact with the enemy on Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands" and "unless definite information regarding your son's fate and whereabouts is obtained, he will be carried on in the records of the Marine Corps as missing in action for a period of one year". This was soon followed by a telegram, sent seven weeks later, addressed to his father and dated March 8, 1944, stating "Deeply regret to inform you that your son Private John J Creech Jr USMC was Killed in Action at Tarawa instead of Missing in Action as previously reported. Remains not recovered." In a follow-up letter from the USMC addressed to his father, John James Creech, Sr., dated March 14, 1944, it stated that "Tarawa has now been fully occupied by American Forces for more than three months and it must necessarily be concluded that he lost his life in action". In a letter addressed to his father, dated May 3, 1944, it stated that Private Creech was posthumously entitled to the Purple Heart and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the latter of which would be issued after the war. He was also a recipient of the Presidential Unit Citation, which was awarded to the Second Marine Division (Reinforced) for service in action against the enemy on Tawara, Gilbert Islands, the citation stating: "For outstanding performance in combat during the seizure and occupation of the Japanese-held Atoll of Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, November 20 to 24, 1943. Forced by treacherous coral reefs to disembark from their landing craft hundreds of yards off the beach, the Second Marine Division (Reinforced) became a highly vulnerable target for devastating Japanese fire. Dauntlessly advancing in spite of rapidly mounting losses, the Marines fought a gallant battle against crushing odds, clearing the limited beachheads of snipers and machine guns, reducing powerfully fortified enemy positions and completely annihilating the fanatically determined and strongly entrenched Japanese forces. By the successful occupation of Tarawa, the Second Marine Division (Reinforced) has provided our forces with highly strategic and important air and land bases from which to continue future operations against the enemy; by the valiant fighting spirit of these men, their heroic fortitude under punishing fire and their relentless perseverance in waging this epic battle in the Central Pacific, they have upheld the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service." and signed by Acting Secretary of the Navy James Vincent Forrestal, for the President. Private Creech also received the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon Bar with blue enameled star and the World War II Victory Medal. All of the original burial sites on Tarawa Atoll were disinterred in 1946 and concentrated in a group burial in the Lone Palm Cemetery on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, at which time the remains of subject decedent could not be identified. During December 1946 and January 1947, all remains in Lone Palm Cemetery were disinterred and moved to Hawaii. In 1948, all unidentified remains were examined at the Central Identification Laboratory. They were all skeletal in nature, most of which were in a fragmented and eroded condition. 386354 Private John James Creech, Jr., United States Marine Corps is memorialized at the Courts of the Missing, Court 2, Honolulu Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Two-piece construction, in sterling silver gilt with purple and white enamels, engraved "PVT. JOHN J. CREECH, JR USMC." on the reverse, measuring 35 mm (w) x 43.5 mm (h), original ribbon with brooch pinback, intact enamels, in its hardshelled "coffin-style" case of issue, extremely fine. Accompanied by a Gold Star Memorial Badge (two-piece construction, silver USMC insignia mounted to a silver gilt star base, measuring 30.7 mm (w) x 29 mm (h), horizontal pinback, scattered gilt wear); a Photograph of Private Creech, Jr. (black and white, gloss finish, obverse illustrating Private Creech, Jr. in his USMC Uniform and standing in a garden setting, reverse handwritten in blue ink "SAM'S BROTHER / UNCLE JOHN / DIED AT 22 IN COMBAT WWII", measuring 85 mm (w) x 130 mm (h), horizontal crease in the center); along with copies of his Service Records and Letters Written to and by his Family.
 
Footnote: John James Creech, Jr. was born on February 23, 1921 in rural Antigo, Langlade County, Wisconsin, the son of John James Creech, Sr. and Annie P. Creech (nee Fraley), both of whom were born in Kentucky. His father was a farmer by trade, while his mother was a housewife, the family Catholic by faith. John Jr. was the ninth of nine children and weighed 1.5 pounds at birth. The family was "dirt poor" and other than John, who was born in a hospital, they were all born in a log cabin with an earthen floor. Four of the nine children never reached adulthood. The linage of the Creech family can be traced to 1622, as the original Creech emigrated from Scotland, the Creeches also having fought on both sides during the Civil War. John Jr. attended grammar school for eight years in Polar, Wisconsin, finishing Grade 8, at which point left school. His interests included: Baseball, Softball, Bowling, Hunting, as well as being a member of the 4H Club. He worked for three years in farming, planting grain, then one and a half years as an Electroplater with Gits Brothers Manufacturing in Chicago, Illinois, producing covers for oil seals, gears for airplanes, oil cups, springs for oilers and oil lines with a nickel coating, along with doing buffing and polishing, mixing acids for pickling and brass braising, followed by one and half years with Carnegie Steel as an Auto Mechanic. John Creech, Jr. enlisted as a Private (386354) with the United States Marine Corps, on April 7, 1942 at Chicago, Illinois. By May 1942, he was training in San Diego, California with the 2nd Recruit Battalion. He was transferred to the Naval Air Station in Seattle, Washington in June 1942 and spent some time training in Bremarton, Washington. He was classed as an Automotive Equipment Operator, his military specialty, in June 1943. He returned to California in August 1943, where he was posted to the 26th Replacement Battalion at Camp Elliott. Private Creech embarked San Diego, California aboard the Anchorage-class dock landing ship USS Mount Vernon (LED-39) on September 21, 1943, arriving in Noumea, New Caledonia on October 4thTwo days later, he embarked Noumea aboard the Evacuation Transport USS Tryon (APH-1) on October 6th, arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on the 10th, where he joined Company "B", First Battalion, 8th Marines. After two and a half weeks in New Zealand, he embarked Wellington aboard the Ormsby-class attack transport USS Sheridan (APA-51) on October 28th, arriving at Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands on November 20th, where he would be in combat during the Battle of Tarawa. The battle itself was fought from November 20 to 23, 1943 and was part of Operation Galvanic, the American invasion of the Gilberts. Nearly 6,400 Japanese, Koreans, and Americans died in the fighting, mostly on and around the small island of Betio, in the extreme southwest of Tarawa Atoll. The Battle of Tarawa was the first American offensive in the critical Central Pacific region. It was also the first time in the Pacific War that the United States faced serious Japanese opposition to an amphibious landing. Previous landings met little or no initial resistance, but on Tarawa, the 4,500 Japanese defenders were well-supplied and well-prepared, and they fought almost to the last man, exacting a heavy toll on the United States Marine Corps. U.S. Divisions suffered similar casualties throughout the duration of other previous campaigns, such as over the six months of the Guadalcanal Campaign, but the losses on Tarawa were incurred within the space of seventy-six hours. The American invasion force to the Gilberts was the largest yet assembled for a single operation in the Pacific, consisting of seventeen aircraft carriers (six CVs, five CVLs, and six CVEs), twelve battleships, eight heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, sixty-six destroyers, and thirty-six transport ships. On board the transports was the 2nd Marine Division and a part of the Army's 27th Infantry Division, for a total of about 35,000 troops. As the invasion flotilla hove to in the predawn hours, the island's four 8-inch guns opened fire. A gunnery duel soon developed as the main batteries on the battleships USS Colorado and USS Maryland commenced counter-battery fire. This proved accurate, with several of the 16-inch shells finding their marks. One shell penetrated the ammunition storage for one of the guns, setting off a huge explosion as the ordnance went up in a massive fireball. Three of the four guns were knocked out in short order. One continued its intermittent, though inaccurate, fire through the second day. The damage to the big guns left the approach to the lagoon open. Following the gunnery duel and an air attack of the island at 0610, the naval bombardment of the island began in earnest and was sustained for the next three hours. Two minesweepers, with two destroyers to provide covering fire, entered the lagoon in the pre-dawn hours and cleared the shallows of mines. A guide light from one of the minesweepers then guided the landing craft into the lagoon, where they awaited the end of the bombardment. The plan was to land Marines on the north beaches, divided into three sections: Red Beach 1 on the far west of the island, Red Beach 2 in the center just west of the pier, and Red Beach 3 to the east of the pier. Green Beach was a contingency landing beach on the western shoreline and was used for the D+1 landings. Black Beaches 1 and 2 made up the southern shore of the island and were not used. The airstrip, running roughly east-west, divided the island into north and south. Marine battle planners had expected the normal rising tide to provide a water depth of five feet over the reef, allowing their four-foot draft Higgins boats room to spare. However, on this day and the next, the ocean experienced a neap tide (the sun and moon at 90 degrees, causing a minimum tide) and failed to rise. In the words of some observers, "the ocean just sat there", leaving a mean depth of three feet over the reef. A New Zealand liaison officer, Major Frank Holland, who had fifteen years experience of the Tarawa Atoll, warned that there would be at most three feet depth due to the tides. Colonel David Shoup was the senior officer of the landing forces and warned his troops that there would be a 50-50 chance that they would need to wade ashore. It would prove unfortunate that the attack was not delayed until more favorable spring tides. The supporting naval bombardment lifted and the Marines started their attack from the lagoon at 0900, thirty minutes later than expected, but found the tide had not risen enough to allow their shallow draft Higgins boats to clear the reef. Only the tracked Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT) "Alligators" were able to get across. The LVT were an amphibious warfare vehicle and amphibious landing craft, introduced by the United States Navy. With the pause in the naval bombardment, those Japanese who had survived the shelling were again able to man their firing pits. Japanese troops from the southern beaches were shifted up to the northern beaches. As the LVTs made their way over the reef and into the shallows, the number of Japanese troops in the firing pits slowly began to increase, and the volume of combined arms fire the LVTs faced gradually intensified. The LVTs had a myriad of holes punched through their non-armored hulls, and many were knocked out of the battle. Those "Alligators" that did make it in proved unable to clear the sea wall, leaving the men in the first assault waves pinned down against the log wall along the beach. A number of "Alligators" went back out to the reef in an attempt to carry in the men who were stuck there, but most of these LVTs were too badly holed to remain seaworthy, leaving the Marines stuck on the reef some 500 yards off shore. Half of the LVTs were knocked out of action by the end of the first day. 386354 Private John James Creech, Jr., United States Marine Corps was initially declared "Missing in Action" on November 20, 1943, which was later changed to "Killed in Action", at the age of 22, as his remains were "non-recoverable". As he was one of the Marines declared "Missing in Action" on the first day of the assault, it is likely that he was one of the many Marines that were killed in trying to get to the beach, cut down by machine gun fire in the water, as the transports were forced to stop hundreds of yards from the beach due to the low tide. In a letter from the USMC addressed to his father, John James Creech, Sr., dated January 18, 1944, it stated that Creech Jr. had "been missing in action since 20 November, 1943 when he failed to return to his organization after contact with the enemy on Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands" and "unless definite information regarding your son's fate and whereabouts is obtained, he will be carried on in the records of the Marine Corps as missing in action for a period of one year". This was soon followed by a telegram, sent seven weeks later, addressed to his father and dated March 8, 1944, stating "Deeply regret to inform you that your son Private John J Creech Jr USMC was Killed in Action at Tarawa instead of Missing in Action as previously reported. Remains not recovered." In a follow-up letter from the USMC addressed to his father, John James Creech, Sr., dated March 14, 1944, it stated that "Tarawa has now been fully occupied by American Forces for more than three months and it must necessarily be concluded that he lost his life in action". In a letter addressed to his father, dated May 3, 1944, it stated that Private Creech was posthumously entitled to the Purple Heart and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the latter of which would be issued after the war. He was also a recipient of the Presidential Unit Citation, which was awarded to the Second Marine Division (Reinforced) for service in action against the enemy on Tawara, Gilbert Islands, the citation stating: "For outstanding performance in combat during the seizure and occupation of the Japanese-held Atoll of Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, November 20 to 24, 1943. Forced by treacherous coral reefs to disembark from their landing craft hundreds of yards off the beach, the Second Marine Division (Reinforced) became a highly vulnerable target for devastating Japanese fire. Dauntlessly advancing in spite of rapidly mounting losses, the Marines fought a gallant battle against crushing odds, clearing the limited beachheads of snipers and machine guns, reducing powerfully fortified enemy positions and completely annihilating the fanatically determined and strongly entrenched Japanese forces. By the successful occupation of Tarawa, the Second Marine Division (Reinforced) has provided our forces with highly strategic and important air and land bases from which to continue future operations against the enemy; by the valiant fighting spirit of these men, their heroic fortitude under punishing fire and their relentless perseverance in waging this epic battle in the Central Pacific, they have upheld the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service." and signed by Acting Secretary of the Navy James Vincent Forrestal, for the President. Private Creech also received the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon Bar with blue enameled star and the World War II Victory Medal. All of the original burial sites on Tarawa Atoll were disinterred in 1946 and concentrated in a group burial in the Lone Palm Cemetery on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, at which time the remains of subject decedent could not be identified. During December 1946 and January 1947, all remains in Lone Palm Cemetery were disinterred and moved to Hawaii. In 1948, all unidentified remains were examined at the Central Identification Laboratory. They were all skeletal in nature, most of which were in a fragmented and eroded condition. 386354 Private John James Creech, Jr., United States Marine Corps is memorialized at the Courts of the Missing, Court 2, Honolulu Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii.
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