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Dalton William Whittington

Male 1925 - 1942  (17 years)

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  • Name Dalton William Whittington 
    Nickname Billy 
    Born Jan 11, 1925  Port Arthur, Jefferson county, Texas, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Gender Male 
    Died Nov 03, 1942  Point Cruz, Guadalcanal (WW-II) Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Cause: defending his country 
    • Billy Whittington enlisted in the Marines Dec. 12, 1941, five days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7. He returned to visit his family and his sister, Gloria Cloud, remembers he visited her right after she married in May of 1942, before he left for San Diego to deploy. They were living in a hotel in El Paso and Billy had completed a furlough home after basic training.
      Billy first landed on Tulagi, which was part of the Guadalcanal Campaign (a part of the Solomon Islands Campaign) and then was sent to Guadalcanal.  The Tulagi campaign began August 7, 1942 and only lasted a few days.  The invasion of Guadalcanal also began began the same day. He would die three months later, November 3, 1942.
      William W. Rogal was the leader of the squad in which Dalton "Billy" Whittington served and he wrote a book about his experiences: "Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Beyond: A Mud Marine's Memoir of the Pacific Island War".  I spoke to Mr. Rogal June 13, 2012. He said he barely remembered Dalton (Billy).  I asked if my mother, Billy's older sister, could call him and he graciously agreed. Mother said he remembered kidding Dalton about the Lord Mayor Dick Whittington's cat.
      Below is an excerpt from pp 72 - 80 of the book detailing the events on October and November 1942 leading up to Billy's death:
      "About October 21, a YP boat ferried us back to Tulagi...."
      "... a week later, about October 30, we went back to Guadalcanal. This time the entire battalion made the trip. And this time there was no uncertainty as to our mission. We would be taking part in an offensive to take the western part of the island, the part controlled by the Japanese army. This was it, the real thing, and I doubt that many of us were certain we were up to it. As a troop leader I felt obligated to exhibit unconcern and a savoir-faire I certainly didn't feel. In a very real sense it is somewhat easier for a leader to quell his inner fears, for the fear of disgracing yourself by showing the white feather before the men who depend upon you overwhelms your personal fear. Fear of disgrace is more potent than fear of death or injury."
      "On November 1 we moved westward on the well-traveled Government Trail, which skirted the beach along the entire north coast of the island, the same trail we had traversed on the patrol from Aola. We had to step aside frequently to allow vehicles of many kinds to pass. Ominously, some were jeep ambulances carrying wounded to the rear. We crossed the Matanikau River on floating footbridges hurriedly thrown up by First Division engineers. We were following my old regiment, the Fifth Marines. In fact, our mission was to pass through the Fifth and take up the assault. but heavy Jap resistance changed those plans. We bivouacked that night about 500 yards west of the river and about 100 yards behind the Fifth. We received some scattered mortar and artillery fire that night but had no casualties."
      "At 0800 we deployed as skirmishers and moved up close behind the Fifth, who were now heavily engaged. Machine gun and rifle fire directed at them kept us flat on our stomachs...."
      "After several hours of hugging the dirt to avoid Jap fire aimed at the Fifth Marines, we were pulled back and directed to move inland and encircle the pocket of Japs the Fifth was trying to eliminate. We completed this maneuver about dusk and dug in with our right flank on the beach facing west. During the night we killed about six Japs trying to escape the pocket. One of these incidents was somewhat amusing. I heard Paul Boyd in a stage whisper call to his brother, "Bob, is anyone supposed to be on your left?" The immediate answer was, "No. Shoot the son of a bitch!" Almost instantaneously the loud "POW" of an 03 rifle closed the door on a Japanese life. Shortly after dawn I almost became the victim of a Jap who had apparently penetrated our line and lay hidden about ten yards behind me in the tall kuana grass that covered the crest of the ridge we occupied. This stalwart, armed only with a pistol, emerged from the grass to a kneeling position and banged poorly aimed shots at me and the men stirring around in the company CP. Before I could respond, First Sergeant Raymond Sadler disposed of the threat with one carefully aimed shot from his 45. In retrospect, I concluded the Jap was shooting too wildly to have had lethal intent. I believe he was committing suicide, i.e., just inviting us to kill him. There was no surrender in those guys."
      "The next day, November 3, was not a good day for the battalion. After a short artillery preparation we attacked westward in a skirmish line about 400 yards in breadth, with the right flank on the beach and the left on the coastal ridges. A Company was on the extreme left flank and my platoon was on the left flank of the company. Captain Miller put my squad on the extreme left and cautioned me to look out for another Marine unit, the "Whalen Group," which was supposed to be somewhere inland of our position. I never did see them. The jungle was thick, too thick to maintain an orderly skirmish line, and we soon decided to have the squads in column. For some reason I don't recall I stayed in the van of my squad as we moved slowly westward along the side of a ridge. We could hear an occasional shot from the units on our right but no sounds of incoming fire. It wasn't exactly a Sunday stroll through the park but it was almost eerily quiet. Perhaps, I thought, the Japs have moved out and this is going to be a cakewalk."
      "My wishful thinking was suddenly interrupted by a movement of the underbrush about ten yards to my front followed by the emergence of a Jap soldier, helmet-less and armed with only a small shovel. Wide-eyed, muscles frozen, we stared at each other for several heartbeats. I don't remember who first broke the trance but he whirled, dove back into the bush and disappeared. Why didn't I chalk up my first trophy? I still blush to admit it -- I couldn't get the safety off on my rifle. By the time I got it off my target was not in sight. The round I fired at the spot of his disappearance penetrated only leaves."
      "One would think that this commotion would have alerted every Jap within several hundred yards. Surely the man I faced and shot at would spread the word that the Yanks are coming. But, strangely, that was not the case. We moved out again, more cautiously and a bit slower. After advancing for not much more than a hundred yards, I moved through a screen of brush and stared in disbelief at a mind-boggling sight not more than 20 yards away, a group of three Japs, squatting close together, their packs and rifles on the ground beside them. Compared to my ragtag appearance these troops wore neat and clean uniforms. They appeared to be fresh troops and not the tattered remnants of the units which had attacked the perimeter in the preceding months. For a few seconds we stared at each other wide-eyed. The soldier nearest me was very young, probably no more than 17. I can still see the look of absolute terror in his eyes. My mind was working at top speed and I determined the only viable solution was to shoot the first one who moves and try to get them all. And that's what I did. When number one stood up I shot him in the chest. He dropped and lay motionless. Number two spun away and started to run but only took one or two steps before my second round drove him into the dirt. While his comrades were dying the kid stayed frozen, his eyes glued to my face. He was on hands and knees, his right side toward me. Slowly he started to rise, his rifle in his left hand. I shot him in the chest and he died quickly and, I think, painlessly. The look in his eyes has stayed with me all these years."
      "... A bullet cracked by my left ear and then another hit the shale directly beside me. I was crouched completely in the open on my left hip with my right leg stretched out down the slope. The shots were coming from a green wall of vegetation about ten yards beyond the bodies of the three dead soldiers. Soon another shot cracked by my ear, and this time I saw the shooter. He was standing behind the trunk of a very large tree. It was dark under this jungle canopy and all I could see was a half-hidden black silhouette when he emerged to bang a quick shot at me. He would hide completely behind the trunk when he worked his bolt. I traded shots with him but only succeeded in knocking bark off his tree. Then, horror or horrors, my bolt hit the follower, telling me my weapon was empty! If there was a record for getting a cartridge clip from an ammunition belt and reloading five rounds into an 03 I'm sure I broke it. By this time I realized that I was going to die unless I killed the man behind the tree and I determined that the next time Tojo stuck his head and rifle into sight I was going to slowly squeeze off a shot, as I had been taught in Boot Camp. he didn't keep me waiting. His rifle and arm slowly appeared and I drew a bead on the edge of the trunk slightly above them, where his head would emerge. When it came into view, my shot went true. The impact of the bullet drove the body sideways, sort of cartwheeling down the slope to the right."
      "What a relief! That shooter had me cold, completely in the open at a range of 30 or 35 yards and he misses with three or four shots. I'm sure he was green, but so were we. The difference -- Marine Corps training -- those endless hours spent practicing with the rifle on and off the range until you learned to load and aim by reflex with little mental effort needed."
      "After this minute or two of action some of the men from Jim Sorenson's squad moved up on both sides of me and we continued the advance. At this juncture the rest of the company on the low ground to our right had not encountered resistance. In fact, the CP sent up a rather accusatory message asking what was holding me up and what all the firing was about. This peed me off and I yelled back, with a certain amount of exaggeration, "We've run into the whole damned Jap army and have killed a bunch of them!" About this time we started taking casualties. A Marine named Verne Ramey was hit in both thighs and had to be dragged back. Private Raymond Hesslink died with a bullet between the eyes. And things started to heat up for the rest of the company on our right. They started taking mortar fire and a heavy machine gun pounded them mercilessly. Corporal Price was killed, along with several others. We were taking so much fire a fast advance was out of the question. At the time I toyed with the idea of taking a couple of men and trying to flank the machine gun which was causing so much havoc to the men on my right. In fact, I should have done it but was concerned that I would have been hit by the friendly fire of the troops I was trying to save. It may have been a foolhardy attempt, for there were a lot of Japs between the machine gun and me. All the same, I wish I had tried it."
      "About this time I heard a voice somewhere to my left screaming, "I give up! I give up!" The brush screened the source of this hollering from me and I asked the men on my left what was going on. George Gardner yelled, "It's a f*****g Jap." Without hesitation I ordered, "Shoot the [SOB]." George complied, although it took him two rounds to do the job. I'm not proud of my action in that situation. We may have been able to take the man prisoner and save his life. But we had been taught the Japs were very tricky and would try to kill you with their last breath. Moreover, we were in the middle of an attack with no time or men to handle a prisoner. Nevertheless, my direction to George still bothers me."
      "We received orders to hold our position. In a short while the firing on our right died down and we stopped taking fire. The company gunnery sergeant, Everette Dunkle, crawled up behind me and said the attack had been called off. We formed a rough defensive line but did not dig in. I took a position prone behind the rotting trunk of a fallen tree and Gunny Dunkle squatted behind me. This seemed like a good time for a smoke, if I could bum one from the gunny. I looked back at him and asked for a cigarette. He was handing it to me when his eyes suddenly widened as he stared at something over my head. I spun around and there, not 30 feet away, stood the biggest jap I had ever seen. This bearded guy had to be at least six feet tall. He was carrying his rifle at port arms and was looking from side to side. He had obviously been sent out as a scout to determine our position. But my god, I thought, he must be blind, for the gunny and I were in plain sight only 30 feet to his front. He was so close I didn't have to aim; I merely pointed the rifle and hit the trigger. The round hit him in the chest and knocked him off his feet to the left. He bounded back up and I shot him again in the chest. He got to his feet and started to run away. I could see two large blood spots on the back of his shirt. I triggered a third round, which knocked him down for good."
      "During the action, Jim Sorenson's squad was on my right at a lower level. Jim, who died of leukemia in 1982, wrote a brilliant memoir of his time in combat while it was still fresh in his mind, and shortly before his death made a return visit to Guadalcanal. Here is his description of the action on November 3:"
      "Our lines were getting pretty well extended so Rogal and his B.A.R. Squad were assigned to reconnoiter from the flank at each rise. At one rise they moved out and found trouble. Their B.A.R. chattered away [Wrong, that was no B.A.R., just my rifle.] and Rogal hollered down to me that they had just dispatched three Japs on the big ridge to my left.... The center of the line and the flank of [on] the beach were moving with no opposition. Seems our end was destined to smell gunpowder. We crossed another hollow and encountered no troubles. Then we came to a rather extensive hollow. The rim in front of us being the big ridge to our left curved toward the shore. Rogal's squad was up on the ridge when all hell broke loose up there. His B.A.R.s cut loose and the Jap rifles answered. My squad was nearest to him and there was considerable distance between us so we began to angle up the slope and moving forward at the same time. My idea was to hit the Jap's pocket from the flank while Rogal's guns were engaging them on the front. I lay behind a log on the slope trying to locate the Jap's position. I couldn't see them so most of the detecting was forced to be done by sound. the other two platoons were stalled while we were mopping up. Guess we delayed them so someone hollered up, "What's holding you up" A couple of snipers?" Rogal roared down, "Snipers hell. The whole dammed Japanese army. We've already got five of them and there's more up here." I relayed the message with a few remarks of my own. At about this time a lull in the fighting occurred.... This stop gave Cassidy [He means Cassity, Kenneth D.] time to move his squad up and fall in on my left and fill in the gap between Rogal and me while Price and his squad moved into the hole between my bunch and the second platoon. None of the corporals had been given any orders on what to do in a case like this but it seems like the right positions were taken up nearly automatically. I spotted a big tree on a slight bump of the slope so I raced for it, but the last man in the Cassidy [Cassity] squad, Heslith [He means Hessling, Raymond H.] got there ahead of me.... Things wasted no time in happening. Heslith stood up behind this big tree and poked his head around the left of the tree. Almost immediately a Jap rifle sounded. Heslith just seemed to shutter [sic], then stiffen like a ramrod and almost in slow motion he fell over backwards with his arms spread out straight from his shoulders. His helmet fell off as he dropped and his head swiveled in my direction, and I looked into a pair of eyes that seemed frozen in their sockets. Right between his eyes was a nasty little red hole. This was the first marine I'd actually seen killed, and I always remembered it."
      "This was the third platoon's baptism of fire and we caught hell; the man next to Heslith [sic] was killed and in a few more minutes and when a corpsman with the platoon crept up to see if he could help him, the sniper got him too. I felt the breath of eternity around me, the three nearest men on my left all killed in what seemed a few minutes but was probably more -- I'm sure I said a fervent prayer...."
      "Price's squad, on my right flank, caught it next and part of Boyd's squad. First off, Miller, one of Boyd's B.A.R. men, tried to cross the gully mouth and caught a bullet through the chest and died while the fracas was going on. Cox, one of Boyd's riflemen, poked up from a log at the gully mouth, and tried to get the sniper somewhere up the gully -- the sniper caught him first though and he dropped with a dum-dum slug through his right collar bone and shoulder. The captain ordered Price to take his squad across the gully mouth and establish an anchor for the line on the other side. Price, instead of taking his men across individually in quick jumps, moved squarely into the gully and shouted to his men to follow -- they probably would have, only he proved an excellent target and the Jap felled him with a shot through the stomach. He too died while the scrap went on...."
      "My minor victories on November 3 were overshadowed by the severe casualties suffered by the battalion that day. A Company had 18 casualties, seven killed and 11 wounded. In addition to Cpl Thurman Price, our dead were Raymond Sanders, Doyle Miller, Dalton Whittington, Blaine Hyde, Dooney Armstrong and Harold Baker. As a whole, the battalion suffered 74 casualties, 20 or more killed in action."

      Information on the battles of the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal is available from many sources, including wikipedia:
      Guadalcanal is the largest island in the Solomon Islands archipelago and lies in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, on the eastern edge of the Coral Sea, about 1,500 miles north of Brisbane, Australia, 1,000 miles southeast of New Guinea and approximately 3,500 miles south of Tokyo.  It is almost entirely covered in tropical rain forest with a central mountainous region and an active volcano, Mount Popomanaseu, which, at 7,700 feet is the tallest mountain in that area, with only New Guinea having taller peaks. Its average temperature is 84 degrees F and its rainy season begins in November. It is 90 miles long by 25 miles wide with coral reefs on its southern shores.  The Guadalcanal Campaign, codenamed Operation Watchtower, was the combined invasion of the neighboring islands of Tulagi, Florida and Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942 and was the first American offensive of World War II. The fighting on Tulagi and Florida was over in two days, but the Japanese resistance on Guadalcanal was intense and lasted through February 9, 1943. The Campaign saw the loss of 7,100 Allied soldiers and sailors and 31,000 Japanese soldiers and sailors.
      The telegram received by Dalton William Whittington's parents:

      Postal Telegraph

      HO47    74 GOVT (TWO)=PNR ARLINGTON VIR 23 528P
      M MRS JESSIE WHITTINGTON          DEC 23 PM  6  15
      =  3725- 34TH ST ( PORT ARTHUR TEXAS)=



      Article in The Port Arthur News (date unknown):

      Three Port Arthurans Are Lost in War, Families Are Told;
      Marine is Reported Definitely Killed

          Port Arthur families were informed today of three war casualties in two days.
          Dalton W. (Billy) Whittington was killed in Marine corps action, and Malvin Wesley Britten is missing in action, today's reports said.  Mr. and Mrs. Roy J. O'Barr of 2848 Sixth street were informed by the Navy department Wednesday that their son, Byron O'Barr, missing in action.
      Parents Receive Wire
          A telegram last night to Private Whittington's parents Mr. and Mrs. Dalton E. Whittington if 3725 34th street, said:
          "Deeply regret to inform you that your son, Private Dalton William Whittington, U.S. Marine corps, was killed in action in performance of his duty and in service to his country."
          The parents believe the action took place in the Solomon Islands.  His most recent letter came about a month ago.  Seventeen years old, he had been in service about a year. He was a student in Thomas Jefferson high school at the time of his enlistment.

          Surviving his parents; two sisters, Mrs. Rosemary Venson [Vincent] of Nederland and Mrs. Gloria Cloud of El Paso; and three brothers, Edward, Marcus, and Richard Whittington of Port Arthur.
          Seaman Britten, 18, son of J.T. Britten, 1336 Stillwell boulevard, has been reported missing in action with the U.S. Navy, according to a communication received by his father.
          The message follows: "The Navy department deeply regrets to inform you that your son, Malvin Wesley Britten, seaman first class, U.S. Navy, is missing in action in performance of his duty and in service of his country.  The department appreciates your anxiety, but details are not now available and delay in receipt thereof must necessarily be expected."
      Enlisted At 17
          Young Britten enlisted in the navy July 28, 1941, at the age of 17.  he was at Pearl harbor at the time of the Japanese attack and was in the battles of Midway and the Coral sea.  The last letter received from him, his father said, was postmarked Aug. 18.  He is the grandson of Mrs. Mary Britten and Mr. and Mrs. E.C. Follett, 849 Eighth street.

      + + +  > > >  + + +

      This article (date unknown) probably appeared in The Port Arthur News, but it is curious that beside it is an ad for a business in Fort Worth, Tex.  Billy's picture in Marine uniform appears with the picture.

      Marine, Buried on Guadalcanal, Gets Purple Heart

          Port Arthur, Nov. 6 - Pvt. Dalton W. Whittington, 17, of Port Arthur has been posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for military merit and for wounds in action which resulted in his death on Guadalcanal last November.
          Whittington left high school to enlist in the Marines, Dec. 12, 1942, just a few days before his seventeenth birthday. (ed. note -- he enlisted in 1941.)
          He landed on Tulagi Island Aug. 7, 1942, and was in service there until his unit went to reinforce the troops on Guadalcanal early in November, when the Japs launched a strong offensive to retake the island.  He lost his life in this action and was buried on Guadalcanal.
          The son of Mr. and Mrs. D.E. Whittington, he was born here Jan. 11, 1925.

      + + +  > > >  + + +

      (Richard Whittington wrote):  My brother, Pvt. Dalton W. Whittington, Serial No. 00331648, who was killed in action on November 3, 1942, lies buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Boniface, Manila, Republic of the Philippines.  None of our family has ever been to Manila, except Tom Cloud during World War II.  (In World War II, the total American casualties in the Pacific and Europe were 405,399.
      (Nephew Tom Cloud wrote: The memorial at Manila is just a list of those missing in action or lost at sea. He was buried on Guadalcanal as confirmed by the newspaper account above and by the conversation with the author William Rogal.)
    Buried Guadalcanal (WW-II) Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • There is a memorial in Manila for the missing:
      Dalton W. Whittington
      Private, U.S. Marine Corps
      Service # 331648
      United States Marine Corps
      Entered the Service from: Texas
      Died: 3-Nov-42
      Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
      Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines
      Awards: Purple Heart
    • He wanted to be a cowboy and went to San Angelo to work on a ranch there.
          On December 17, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, a day President Roosevelt called "A day that will live in infamy".  The national outrage prompted many young men to lie about their age so they could join the military before the legal age of 18.  Billy, as the eldest son, felt it his obligation to go and defend his country.  He pestered his dad to take him to enlist and, just 5 days later, before he turned 17, his dad helped him lie about his age and he entered the Marine Corps.  His mother never forgave her husband for letting her son go to war, where he would die for his country.
          Jessie Wiess Whittington told of how Billy came and stood at the foot of her bed and told her goodbye the night before she received the telegram informing of his death.
    Person ID I1219  mykindred
    Last Modified Jun 25, 2018 

    Father Dalton Earnest Whittington, II,   b. Oct 14, 1895, Houston, Harris county, Texas, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Apr 07, 1970, Port Arthur, Jefferson county, Texas, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 74 years) 
    Mother Jessie Wiess,   b. Sep 24, 1892, Hooks Switch, Hardin county, Texas, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Nov 30, 1970, Port Arthur, Jefferson county, Texas, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 78 years) 
    Married Apr 16, 1917  Port Arthur, Jefferson county, Texas, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    • Witnessed by D.E. Whittington, Sr, Victor Williams, Olivette Williams; the Rev. J.M.P. Morrow, officiating minister.
    • -
      1920 census, TX, Jefferson, Port Arthur, ed 107, 28-A, (T625-1822, p.224)
      Jan. 18, 1920, HH 596
      Whiting, Dalton E, head, M, W, 24, TX, LA, TX, canner
      Whiting, Jessie T, wife, F, W, 27, TX, TX, TX
      Whiting, Rosemary, dau, 8/10, TX
      1930 census, TX, Jefferson, JP 2, Pear Ridge, e.d. 123-72, 14-A, (T626-2363, p. 88)
      April 20, 1930
      Calanette Ave, HH 266/282
      Whittington, D.E., head, $2000, M, W, 34, m at 31, TX, LA, TX, laborer, oil refinery
      Whittington, Jessie, wife, F, W, 37, m at 24, TX, TX, TX
      Whittington, Rosemary, dau, 10
      Whittington, Gloria, dau, 9
      Whittington, Dalton, son, 5
      Whittington, John E, son, 3-2/12
      Whittington, Marcus W, son, 1-4/12

      Second street, HH 269/285
      Thornton, Henry T, head, M, W, 32, m at 18, TX, TN, TX, laborer, oil refinery
      Thornton, Bertha A, wife, F, W, 32, m at 19, TX, TN, TX
      Thornton, Marada M, dau, 11
      Thornton, William A, son, 9
      Thornton, Thomas Jr, son, 3-?/12
      Thornton, Francis E, dau, 1-?/12
    Family ID F465  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
    Whittington, Dalton William 'Billy'
    Whittington, Dalton William "Billy"
    Proud of his country and proud to be a Marine, Billy died in WW-II in an assault on Guadalcanal.

    WW-II MIA form 1
    WW-II MIA form 1
    WW-II MIA 2
    WW-II MIA 2

  • Sources 
    1. [S143] Bible of Dora Bumstead and Willie W. Wiess.

    2. [S978] Bible of Dalton Earnest Whittington & Jessie Wiess Whittington.

    3. [S4594] Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Beyond: A Mud Marine's Memoir of the Pacific Island War, p. 80.