MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marine Raiders throughout history are renowned for their ability to accomplish seemingly impossible missions. The fact is Raiders take care of their own, in life and in death, is a major contributor to their audacity and mission accomplishment.
After 73 years, Sgt. John C. Holladay, a Marine Raider killed in action during World War II, was brought home and laid to rest with military honors in his hometown of Florence, S.C., April 4, 2016.
The ceremony took place at the Florence National Cemetery where Holladay was placed in his permanent resting place. The funeral cascade was led by a large group of patriotic motorcycle riders from the Patriot Guard. At the cemetery, his family was met by service members saluting and dozens more patrons waving American flags in support.
During World War II, Holladay was assigned to Company B, 1st Marine Raider Battalion, 1st Marine Raider Regiment, who fought battles against Japanese positions along the Pacific front where he was killed.
Holladay was a family man who enjoyed spending much of his time outdoors hunting and fishing, according to his nephew, Jack Holladay. He told a story of how his Uncle, John, paddled a canoe from South Carolina down to the coast and when he got there, he learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and he immediately enlisted into the Marine Corps at the age of 29.
During the war, Holladay was spoken of as an excellent Marine who only wanted the opportunity to serve, said his nephew Jack. He excelled in marksmanship, swimming and survival - all qualities that made him an exceptional Raider.
One of Jacks favorite stories to tell comes from the book “Edson’s Raiders.”
“Some like Pfc. John C. Holladay of Baker Company, were world class shooters. He could shoot the eyes out of an ant with ‘Ol’ Lucifer’ his well-oiled Springfield.” As recorded by Pfc, John H. Gann a radio operator, Holladay took aim at a sniper in a distant palm tree and carefully squeezed the trigger. Nothing. “Better shoot him again,” suggested 1st. Sgt. Brice Maddox. Holladay demurred: “Top, Ol’ Lucifer don’t lie; he’ll fall in a minute.” Gann and Maddox then shook their heads in amazement as the sniper’s body slid out of the tree.”
Jack was one of two people that offered their DNA to be tested so they could determine the identity of Holladay’s remains.
“To have the chance to bring him home and give him an internment on American soil to honor WWII Raiders and him is just an overwhelming feeling,” said Jack. “I get tears of joy if I think about it for too long.”
During this process the Holladay family has received nothing but support from the local community and the Marine Corps. People have donated everything from tents for the overflow of people coming to pay their respects to a vault for the casket.
“I don’t think we would have any problem getting the money to bring him home for a funeral, but the Marine Corps has refused to allow anyone other than the Marine Corps to take care of their Marines,” said Jack.
Marines met and escorted the casket back to the United States and then to the funeral site. The Marines of Company F, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, based out of Eastover, South Carolina, provided the funeral detail, ensuring Sgt. Holladay received his full military burial honors with the dignity and respect he so much deserved. There were also current Marine Raiders who attended the funeral.
“Sgt. Holladay’s return provides closure for both his family and the Raider community, demonstrating that although he was missing for 73 years, he was never forgotten,” said a Marine Raider currently assigned to Marine Special Operations Company B, 1st Marine Raider Battalion. “The sacrifices Sgt. Holladay and his family have made in coping with his loss for the past 73 years is extremely important for U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command to recognize. We shall never forget their sacrifice.”