Pfc. Arthur Joseph Holmes enlisted in the United States Marine Corps one month after the United States entered World War II. He spent over two years of his young life in the island-hopping campaigns of the Pacific with the 1st Marine Division. Holmes participated in many of the battles that took place in the Pacific during the war. He never returned home.
Holmes was born in New York on December 11, 1923. He lived in Manhattan with his mother and two siblings and worked as an errand boy in 1940. In January 1942, Holmes left for Parris Island and trained to become one of over 200,000 Marines that served in World War II.
He joined Company C, First Battalion, First Marine Regiment in April 1942. After his unit assignment, his military career moved quickly. By July 11, 1942 he arrived in New Zealand and began preparations for the Guadalcanal Campaign.
On August 7, 1942 Holmes and 11,000 other Marines landed on the island of Guadalcanal. Only 6 months after leaving New York for the Marines, Holmes participated in some of the heaviest fighting that the 1st Marine Regiment experienced during the entire war.
On the night of August 21, 1942, the Japanese launched a massive counter offensive against the Marines in an attempt to retake the islands. Between 41 and 43 Marines were killed during the Battle of Tenaru. Despite the heavy fighting, the Marines held their positions against nearly 1,000 enemy soldiers.
It was just the beginning of Holmes’s experience of the war. He participated in one battle to another for the next two years. From September to December 1943, he fought alongside the Australian 9th Division on the Huon Peninsula. In January 1944, Holmes’s unit participated in the Battle of Cape Gloucester.
In September 1944, the Battle of Peleliu began. Within 10 days, the First Marine Division lost half of its fighting force. Over 2,000 Americans lost their lives during the fighting. Pfc Arthur J. Holmes Jr. was among them. He was killed in action on September 19, 1944 at the age of 20. He spent the last two years of his life at war, and never returned home.
Holmes was awarded the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He was buried at sea and his name can be found on the Walls of the Missing in Manila American Cemetery.
Last year, the Veterans Legacy Program partnered with University of Central Florida to learn about Veterans memorialized at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida. Holmes was among the Veterans that students conducted research on. One student discovered Holmes’s story and wrote a biography for him in order to share his legacy. You can read Holmes’s biography here.
In recognition of National Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day, NCA is honored to share Holmes’s story of service and sacrifice. Please join us in remembering Pfc. Arthur J. Holmes Jr.