NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and other officials are paying tribute to a U.S. Marine from Marion County who is coming home nearly 75 years after dying amid furious fighting at the bloody Battle of Tarawa in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
Marine Cpl. Henry Andregg Jr. of Whitwell, Tenn., was 22 when he was killed in November 1943 during the U.S. invasion of the remote Gilbert Islands.
Interred for decades in an unidentified grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, his remains were identified in May 2017 through modern DNA analysis.
He is scheduled for burial Friday at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. And Haslam has declared a day of mourning Friday, ordering flags at half-staff from sunrise to sunset to honor what his office calls the corporal's "ultimate sacrifice" for his country.
Some 74 years ago, Andregg was assigned to Company C, 2nd Amphibious Tractor Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, which participated in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands, located in the central Pacific some 2,400 miles southwest of Pearl Harbor.
The Battle of Tarawa is considered one of the U.S.'s bloodiest engagements in the Pacific Theater. During the course of just 76 hours fighting with the Japanese, some 1,000 Marines were killed and more than 2,000 wounded — almost as many men as U.S. forces suffered during the entire six-month campaign at the earlier Guadalcanal Island battle, according to History.com and other sources.
Haslam said in a statement that "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."
Tennessee Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Many-Bears Grinder said several of 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," she added.
He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and memorialized as one of the missing Marines from the Battle of Tarawa at The Honolulu Memorial National Cemetery of the Pacific. Other awards include The Combat Action Ribbon for service during World War II, The Presidential Unit Citation, awarded to members of the 2nd Marine Division for their service on Tarawa during the period of Nov. 20-24, 1943; The Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze campaign star; The World War II Victory Medal; Rifle Marksman badge, and Pistol Marksman badge.
Visitation for Andregg is scheduled Thursday from 3-7 p.m. (CDT) at the Reed Funeral Home at 11675 Highway 28 in Whitwell. Funeral services will be held at the Reed Funeral Home on Friday at 10 a.m. (CDT). Graveside services with full military honors will follow on Friday at the Chattanooga National Cemetery in Chattanooga.
Andregg is survived by his nieces Dorothy Rogers and Glenna Raulston of Whitwell, Peggy Wagner of Signal Mountain, Drenda Van Hoosier of Lawrenceville, Ga., and nephews Tim Lasater of Whitwell and George Wagner of Dunlap.