The WWII Battle of Tarawa was a 76 hour key battle in America’s Central Pacific Campaign. 18,000 Marines were sent to the tiny island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. Clay Bonnyman Evans’ grandfather, Alexander “Sandy” Bonnyman Jr. (May 2, 1910 – November 22, 1943) was a United States Marine Corps officer who was killed in action on Betio Atoll in the Gilbert Islands during World War II. A combat engineer, he received the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars and the World War II Victory Medal posthumously for his actions during the strategically important assault on a Japanese bombproof shelter during the Battle of Tarawa.
Sandy Bonnyman’s bones lay buried under the sand of Tarawa for over 70 years. Tune in to hear his grandson’s amazing journey to bring Sandy Bonnyman home.
In November 1943, Marine 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr. was mortally wounded while leading a successful assault on a critical Japanese fortification on the Pacific atoll of Tarawa, and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor. The brutal, bloody 76-hour battle would ultimately claim the lives of more than 1,100 Marines and 5,000 Japanese forces.
But Bonnyman’s remains, along with those of hundreds of other Marines, were hastily buried and lost to history following the battle, and it would take an extraordinary effort by a determined group of dedicated civilians to find him.
In 2010, having become disillusioned with the U.S. government’s half-hearted efforts to recover the “lost Marines of Tarawa,” Bonnyman’s grandson, Clay Bonnyman Evans, was privileged to join the efforts of History Flight, Inc., a non-governmental organization dedicated to finding and repatriating the remains of lost U.S. service personnel. In Bones of My Grandfather, Evans tells the remarkable story of History Flight’s mission to recover hundreds of Marines long lost to history in the sands of Tarawa. Even as the organization begins to unearth the physical past on a remote Pacific island, Evans begins his own quest to unearth the reclaim the true history of his grandfather, a charismatic, complicated hero whose life had been whitewashed, sanitized and diminished over the decades.
On May 29, 2015, Evans knelt beside a History Flight archaeologist as she uncovered the long-lost, well-preserved remains of of his grandfather. And more than seventy years after giving his life for his country, a World War II hero finally came home.