Alonza Russell enlisted in the Marine Corps Nov. 10, 1942—the Marine Corps birthday. He attended basic training at Paris Island and rifle training at Camp Lejeune before heading to San Diego. Then, he deployed to the Pacific.
There, Russell and his fellow Marines joined the 2nd Marine Division in New Zealand and received additional training at various islands around the Pacific theater.
Russell received his first combat assignment in November 1943 when he and parts of the 2nd Marine Division took the Gilbert Islands from Japanese forces..
From the Gilbert Islands, Russell’s unit traveled to the Solomon Islands and later Saipan. There, Russell served as a driver, transporting American servicemembers around the islands. Although the unit arrived after U.S. forces had taken Saipan from the Japanese, the Marines still faced sporadic attack from insurgent Japanese forces hidden around the island.
Several months later, Russell’s unit prepared for the invasion of Okinawa. As the Marines approached Okinawa, they faced heavy resistance from Japanese bombers and suicide pilots, narrowly avoiding kamikaze attacks.
By September 1945, Japan surrendered and the 2nd Marine Division converted to an occupying force. Russell spent several weeks with his unit stationed in Nagasaki, Japan, before returning to the United States, where he was discharged at the rank of corporal.
Russell passed away Aug. 13, 2015, at the age of 94.
We honor his service.
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This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Editor: Agnes Song
Fact checker: Savannah Labbe
Graphic artist: Tenzin Chomphel