A few months ago, I wrote about Private First Class Eldon F. Peirce. He was the 6th serviceman from Weber County to die in World War II. All I had at the time was the Standard Examiner article from Sunday, April 5, 1942:
“Word has been received of the death of Eldon F. Peirce, 17, a private in the US Marine corps, of gas gangrene, by his mother, Mrs. Mary A. Peirce of 285 Eighth. He died March 31 at a location that was kept confidential at the request of military officials.”
In early March of 1942, except for the Philippines and some extensive fighting for British territories, American troops were moving toward the battles that would eventually occur.
It bugged me that I couldn’t account for this Marine. He is not listed on the national list of those killed from Weber County. So I began to dig again. I found from his mother’s request for a headstone that he was with the 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Brigade.
Next, I found his death certificate. He died in Tutuila, American Samoa. More research.
During World War 2, the island of Tutuila was held by the Marine Corp. Anticipating a battle, they had lined the coastline with concrete bunkers. Apparently the Japanese weren’t interested. The only ‘battle’ during the war was on January 11, 1942. A Japanese submarine attacked the island. End of story.
Except for the part about Private First Class Peirce. He died the end of March from gas gangrene. That is a pretty nasty bacterial infection, typically caused by a wound. The non-medical simple definition is that gases build up in gangrene tissues. I am not going to post a picture but it looks painful and ugly.
Had Private Peirce been wounded in the battle with the submarine? No way to know, but his military record lists, ‘KILLED IN ACTION – DIED IN THE LINE OF DUTY’.
So, bottom line. We know that Private Peirce died in Tutuila, American Samoa on March 31, 1942 of gas gangrene.
His body was brought back to Utah by an honor guard, along with 3,000 others that came back to the US for burial. He came back to his hometown of Ogden, arriving at the Utah general depot, along with 18 other Utahns. He is buried in Aultorest Cemetery.