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U.S. Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 453, 4th Marine Logistics Group, transport a casket during the funeral of Pfc. Glenn White in Emporia, Kan., Sept. 18, 2021.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jacqueline Arre

Home at Last: WWII veteran returns home after nearly 80 years

20 Sep 2021 | Lance Cpl. Jacqueline Arre 2nd Marine Division

Pfc. Glenn F. White, from Emporia, Kansas, had a thin build and stood just shy of five feet six inches. He was eighteen years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in the winter of 1942, at the height of World War II. 

A year after joining, White was sent to the Gilbert Islands, with his unit: Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (1/6), 2d Marine Division. It was here that White would make his final stand. On the island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll, Marines and Sailors with 1/6 were met with heavy Japanese resistance. Over 3,000 Marines and Sailors were killed or wounded, trying to secure the island. 

As the November night began to fall, White’s squad pushed ahead of Alpha to provide a screening force. The squad came under fire and White was mortally wounded. The nineteen-year-old, on the brink of death, continued to man his weapon to hold back the enemy and give the Marines behind him time to engage in the firefight. 

Due to construction errors, several Marines and Sailors’ graves on Betio Island were lost. White’s remains were among those lost, but his legacy was everywhere- in the forefront of minds and etched in the forlorn faces of the surviving Marines of Alpha Company. 

In June 1944, Pfc. Glenn F. White was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal for his conspicuous gallantry and unwavering devotion. He was a young Marine, in age and time of service. He joined to fight and died doing so. 

In 2009, a non-profit organization, History Flight, began working to identify and recover the lost cemeteries on Betio Island. A decade later, several remains were found in “Row D” of Cemetery 33 and identified as Marines from 1/6, including the midwestern Silver Star recipient. 

After being away from home for seventy-nine years, White finally returned to Emporia. On the morning of Sept. 18, 2021, Pfc. Glenn F. White was laid to rest in his hometown next to his family.

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