Remains Of World War II Soldier Being Returned To Whitwell

Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Henry Andregg, Jr.
Henry Andregg, Jr.

A World War II soldier's remains have been identified and are being returned home to Whitwell.  The remains of Cpl. Henry Andregg Jr. were identified among over 500 previously unidentified remains left in the aftermath of intense fighting on the Island of Betio, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands.  Cpl. Andregg was killed in action on Nov. 20, 1943, in the initial assault.

On Nov. 20, 1943, The United States launched Operation Galvanic, a military action to secure the Gilbert and Marshall Islands as a strategic stronghold for air and naval operations against the Japanese Imperial Forces.  This operation began with the assault of Tarawa.  This action was the first of many in the strategic campaign for control of the Central Pacific Region.  It was the first time The United States had faced such fierce opposition.  The Japanese forces had worked for over a year to heavily fortify the Island of Betio.  The island was manned by over 5,000 Japanese soldiers and Korean laborers. 

The day of the initial attack, air support never materialized.  The orders were given to proceed with the assault, with United States Naval forces providing bombardment from their positions off the island.  Marine Corps amphibious tractors and Higgins boats began landing and assault operations.  Because of the reef around the lagoon and an unusual southerly tide, many of the amphibious tractors were caught on the reefs, while the Higgins boats were able to clear them and begin landing.  Marines in the amphibious tractors were forced to fight from their position or wade nearly 600 yards to the beach. 

The battle raged for 76 hours, with the United states suffering over 3,000 casualties, with 1,100-1,200 killed on the first day of action. 2,233 casualties were Marines, 59 were sailors, totaling 3,407. Of the nearly 5,000 Japanese military and Korean laborers, only 146 survived the assault. 

In the months that followed the action at Tarawa, The United states was able to mount a successful campaign for the Marshall Islands, from which attacks could be made on the Japanese forces, as well as the Japanese mainland.  The islands taken in this action removed important harbors from the Japanese Imperial Navy, and gave the United States a platform to reach Tokyo with strategic bombers.

There were five temporary cemeteries constructed on the island of Betio immediately after the battle.   In 1946,  the 604 Quartermasters received orders  to consolidate those five cemeteries into one, called Lone Palm Cemetery. In 1949/1950, those that remained unknown were moved to The Honolulu Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, where a memorial was erected.  In 2016, the POW/MIA Accounting Agency began the task of identifying the unknowns.  Cpl. Andregg was one of many that now can be brought home to rest in peace.

Governor Bill Haslam said, “The heroism of those who fought in World War II and the Battle of Tarawa continues to inspire us today. As a 22 year old Marine, Henry had just started his adult life, but  courageously chose to give the ultimate sacrifice for his country.”

Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder said, “Several of Corporal Andregg’s nieces and nephews will receive valuable closure by laying their uncle to rest in Tennessee. We are honored to have the chance to recognize the valor of this American hero and to remember the loss suffered by his family, friends and community.”

A public visitation will be held from 3 p.m. CDT until 7 p.m. CDT on Thursday, Aug. 24, and funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. CDT on Friday, Aug. 25, in the funeral home chapel of Reed Funeral Home, 11675 Highway 28.  Burial will follow at Noon CDT in The Chattanooga National Cemetery, with full military honors. 

The public, and service men and women are welcome to attend the visitation and services.  For those wishing to show support, the procession will leave from Reed Funeral Home at 11 p.m. CDT on Friday, Aug. 25, and follow Hwy 28 to I-24, exiting at 180A and proceeding to Holtzclaw Avenue, before arriving at the Chattanooga National Cemetery at 1200 Bailey Avenue, Chattanooga.






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