Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Letter from Tarawa

To make sure we never forget the sacrifice of those who came before us read the letter written from Capt. Martin F. Barrett, U.S.M.C. of F. Company, 2nd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment to Caroline Loretta O'Neill the Aunt of Ambrose Aloysius McDonald, Jr. describing the death of Ambrose on November 20, 1943 on the first day of the Battle of Tarawa.  It is unknown how the letter made it to Caroline, the letter ended up with Ambrose's sister Virginia McDonald Geary. Throughout her life Virginia made certain that Ambrose was never forgotten and that her children, with exception to her oldest, knew about the Uncle they never had the opportunity to meet.

Tuesday, February 1st, 1944

Dear Miss. O’Neill:
Although I have already written to Ambrose’s mother concerning his death, I feel I should write again and give you further information about him. It is hard for me to write about such things, because he was such a fine boy, and so much liked by everyone. I do, however, want to tell you how he died, because you should know that.

As you know, we landed on Tarawa on Nov. 20th, and we were in the assault, that is, we were the first to hit the beach. Ambrose got in alright and did excellent work. I saw him about ten o’clock in the morning and he was fine, getting along swell. In the afternoon, I learned he has been hit and died instantly. It was just around noon when he was hit by a Jap bullet and died instantly, no suffering, no pain, he really didn’t know what hit him. He was buried on Tarawa, and Father Laughlin, our chaplain, said the prayers for the dead.

About a week before we landed, a priest came aboard and we all went to confession, mass and communion.  Ambrose was there too, and he received with the rest of us. Just before we landed, general absolution was given, so rest assured that Ambrose is now happy in heaven. That is one consolation that you all have, I’m positive he died in the state of grace.

You know how sorry I am for you and nothing I can say will lessen your grief. His death is a great loss. And may his soul rest in peace.


Capt. Martin F. Barrett, U.S.M.C.
F. Company, 2nd Batn. 8th Marines
F. P.O. San Francisco, Cal.

Note - While this letter is for Caroline Loretta O'Neill, one of Virginia's Aunt's whom she lived with before getting married on 15 Jul 1938. She also lived with Eleanor Monica O'Neill , both are my 2nd great grand aunts, also known affectionately as "Aunt Nora" and  "Aunt Carrie". It is uncertain how the mixup of the name happened.

Michelle M. Murosky: The McDonald Collection &emdash; Ambrose Aloysius McDonald Jr.
Ambrose Aloysius McDonald, Jr. 
Ambrose volunteered for military service and joined the Marine Corps. He earned a Purple Heart for his service. In addition to being remembered at the Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii he now has a memorial in Arlington National Cemetery,  thanks to his sister Virginia McDonald Geary

From the Virginia McDonald Geary Collection. Photographer Unknown. Editing and digital restoration by Michelle M. Murosky.

Ambrose Aloysius McDonald, Jr. and Virginia McDonald Geary are my 1st cousins 3x removed. They are the children of Ambrose Aloysius McDonald, my 2nd great grand uncle and Gertrude Anna O'Neill, my 2nd great grand aunt. My relationship with Ambrose Aloysius McDonald, Jr. and Virginia McDonald Geary  is unique in that we are double 1st cousins 3x removed. We share two sets of common ancestors. Our common McDonald grandparents are Michael McDonald and Anna Haggerty. Our common O'Neill grandparents are Michael O'Neill and Ellen Cunningham. Caroline Loretta O'Neill and Eleanor Monica O'Neill are my 2nd great aunts.



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