Private James A. Whitworth
James Alan (Jay) Whitworth was born Dec. 31, 1925 and was killed on November 20, 1943. He had probably enlisted in the Marine Corps during 1942 or early 1943. The family was told that he was mowed down as he stepped onto the island by Japanese fire from a pillbox and probably did not get off a shot. His Father, Joseph Michael Whitworth, was murdered in Kilgore, TX. in 1936 when James was only eleven years old. James's brother, Joseph Michael Jr., was in a Naval Construction unit, "Seabees", at the same time. Sometime after the war a monument had been erected in his hometown which only recently was vandalized and left laying stuck in the mud.
We are proud of them both.
Submitted by Barbara Loden
thanks to a local Marine "
November 4, 2012 3:00 am
Jay Whitworth didn't live long enough to become a military veteran. In fact, the 17-year-old died so young that he never got the opportunity to cast a vote in a presidential election. But James Alan "Jay" Whitworth died a hero in November 1943, one of 3,100 U.S. Marines killed or wounded while storming the beaches at bloody Tarawa atoll in the Central Pacific Ocean.
This week numerous Veterans Day activities will be held around East Texas, each honoring the men and women who have served in the military. As an Army vet myself, I can tell you how much the observances are appreciated. But at each Nov. 11 ceremony participants pause, as they should, to also pay homage to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country. One of those is East Texan James Alan "Jay" Whitworth.
Jay was born Dec. 31, 1925, in Kilgore. His father, Joe, an insurance agent, died in a house fire when the youngster was 11 years old. His mother remarried and the family moved to Longview, living on Marshall Avenue. Whitworth was a student at Longview High School when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He was just shy of his 16th birthday when the country went to war. Jay had a part-time job selling the Longview News-Journal on downtown street corners. He wasn't too concerned about schoolwork. He and many of his buddies were just counting the days until they were old enough to join the military.
He wanted to be a U.S. Marine.
Whitworth enlisted in late 1942 when he turned 17. His older brother, Joe Jr., already had joined the war effort, signing up with the Seabees, the U.S. Navy construction battalions. Jay was sent to San Diego, Calif., for training. There he became a part of the Second Marine Division, organized at Camp Elliott. His unit then was deployed to New Zealand. An infantry rifleman, he was a proud member of the Division's Second Marine Regiment, First Battalion, Co. E.
In June 1943 the Division sailed to Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands campaign. Now a battle veteran, Whitworth was sent to Tarawa Atoll, in the Pacific's Gilbert Islands.
Tarawa was heavily defended by the Japanese, who were dug in and ready for any amphibious assault. They had a large number of coastal defense guns, concrete pillboxes, firing pits and trenches. The Japanese also had a clear view of the water and the beaches. The Marine attack began on the morning of Nov. 20, 1943. Whitworth was in the first wave of attackers. But the tide wasn't high enough for the assault boats to clear the coral reefs. Many Marines died before they left the boats as the Japanese pounded them with mortars, machine guns and coastal guns. Whitworth, like so many others, waded ashore as best he could as bullets whizzed by. He finally reached the beach, then began running toward a log seawall that would provide him some protection But a machine-gun blast ended the young East Texan's life. He died on the beach.
It was one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history. Whitworth's Division alone lost almost 300 dead and another 900 wounded. The Japanese toll was even higher. Of 4,700 defenders on Tarawa, only 17 survived. The inscription on his tombstone, in Longview's Grace Hill Cemetery, says, "He Died That Others Might Live."
Sadly, Jay Whitworth didn't get the opportunity to come home from the war, to raise a family or join the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars. But because of the sacrifices of Whitworth and countless others, we can go to the polls and vote in free elections. This week say "thanks" to a vet. And when you vote Tuesday, please remember the sacrifices of Jay Whitworth and all the others who have given their lives so we can continue to live in freedom.
© Copyright 2012, Longview News-Journal, All Rights Reserved.
NOTE: Pvt. Whitworth's designation as E/1/2 is likely incorrect. I would guess the correct designation would be E/2/2.
copyright 2001 Wheaton, Illinois
Created 23 December 2001 - Update 2 August 2015