Paul Edward Holland

1921 - 1943

Marine Corps.

Their Story

Paul Edward Holland was born July 24, 1921, the son of Paul August and Anna Rose (Goulet) Holland, in L’Anse, Michigan.[1]

Paul was known as “Binky” among his friends and family. He was one of nine children born to the Hollands. Paul had two brothers, Clarence “Clary” P. and Gerald “Gedgy”, who both served in the Navy during World War II.

Paul Holland was determined to be a Marine from the time he heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor. “As anyone who knew Binky would attest, he was by nature adventurous and sought out new experiences. He believed the Marines would be at the forefront of the action, and he wanted to be there.”

Paul Edward Holland joined the United States Marine Corps in Chicago, Illinois, listing his occupation as a welder. For enlistment, he used his confirmation certificate instead of his birth certificate. This led the Marines to list his name erroneously as Paul Joseph Holland. Binky was sent two thousand miles away to San Diego, California, for his training. After basic training at Camp Elliott and Camp Pendleton in San Diego, he was given specialized training as a scout, sniper, and machine gunner, and in intelligence, tank, and chemical defense. During this period, he qualified as rifle sharpshooter and pistol expert. He then completed a five-week course in commercial welding and was promoted to private first class. The only World War II Marine Corps tank school was established at Jacques Farm as a part of Camp Elliott, and now PFC Holland was trained in all aspects of tank operation and maintenance. Over the next five months, he would be promoted to corporal.

Corporal Holland’s military records show that in July 1943, he sailed on the SS McLean to Noumea, New Caledonia, then on the SS Mormacport to Wellington, New Zealand. On November 3, 1943, he embarked aboard the U.S.S. Ashland to Noumea, New Caledonia, arriving at Port Havana, Efate, and French New Hebrides on November 7. He sailed from that point to disembark at Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, in the Gilbert Islands.

Corporal Holland was in Charlie Company of the 2nd Tank Battalion when they landed on Betio as part of Operation GALVANIC.[2] The mission of the 2nd Marine Division was to secure the island to control the Japanese airstrip on the Tarawa Atoll, preventing the Japanese Imperial forces from getting closer to the United States, and enabling U.S. forces to get closer to mainland Japan. It would become one of the bloodiest battles in U.S, Marine Corps history.

Corporal Holland served as a recon guide with Company C (Medium), 2nd Tank Battalion, during the Tarawa campaign.[3] During the amphibious landings on Betio, his role was to lead a platoon of tanks ashore using floats to mark a clear path around obstacles like shell holes or mines. It was a dangerous job under fire.

He was in the first Landing Craft Vehicles & Personnel (LCVP), also called a “Higgins Boat”, that left the USS Ashland. Veteran Melvin Swango told what happened in the book “Tanks In Hell: A Marine Corps Tank Company on Tarawa”:

“There were about twenty of us, all in one Higgins boat. By the time we hit the edge of the reef the machine gun fire was so intense it was tearing through the bulkheads of the Higgins boat. I would guess that maybe five or six of the men fell to the deck there, either killed or wounded.

They landed us right at the edge of the reef and we started wading in…. We spread out in a single line, spacing ourselves as far apart as possible while still being able to see any crater that might appear between us. Whenever we found a crater, one man would stand there to wave the tanks around it…. Our tanks were watching for us as they plowed through the water.

Machine gun fire was so intense it was like raindrops in the water all around us. Each time I looked around, there would be fewer of us. A man would simply sink beneath the water, and that would be the end of him. I only know of three of us who survived.

It was during this point of the landing operation that Corporal Holland was killed by gunshot wounds to the chest.
For his service and sacrifice the received the following awards and decorations:

Purple Heart
    Combat Action Ribbon
          World War II Victory Medal
          American Campaign Medal
          Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation
          Asiatic-Pacific Theater Campaign Medal
          Marine Corp Expeditionary Medal
          Gold Star Lapel Button

These awards and decorations were sent to his parents.

Despite the heavy casualties suffered by U.S. forces, the Battle of Tarawa was a huge victory for the U.S. military. The Gilbert Islands provided the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet a platform from which to launch assaults on the Marshall and Caroline Islands to advance their Central Pacific Campaign against Japan.

In the immediate aftermath of the fighting on Tarawa, U.S. service members who died in the battle were buried in several battlefield cemeteries on the island. In 1946 and 1947, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration centralized all the American remains found on Tarawa to Lone Palm Cemetery for later repatriation. However, almost half of the known casualties were never found. No recovered remains could be associated with Corporal Paul Holland. In 1949, a Board of Review declared Paul as “non-recoverable.”[4]
Paul’s family had a memorial marker placed at Rock Island National Cemetery, in Rock Island, Illinois, in hopes that one day he would be found and returned home. Marine Corps Reserve Corporal Paul Holland is also memorialized at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific’s Honolulu Memorial. His name is permanently inscribed on Court 4 of the “Courts of the Missing.”

One more part of Paul’s story comes from a book written by Paul’s younger brother William “Bill” Holland:

“Just prior to entering the Marines, Binky gave an engagement ring to his girlfriend, Margaret Gerdes, a very striking, shy, intelligent blonde beauty. Their commitment must have been strong yet known only to them. Though it is certain she had opportunities, she never married and kept that ring until the day she died in 2007.” [5]

[1] CPL Paul Joseph Holland (1921-1943) – Find a Grave Memorial

[2] IBID

[3] Paul J. Holland – Unaccounted For – Missing Marines

[4] IBID

[5] Holland, William. The Neighborhoods (Kindle Location 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74). Dorrance             Publishing Co. Inc. Kindle Edition


Paul Edward Holland
Paul Edward Holland
Margret Gerdes
Margret Gerdes
Memorial Marker
Memorial Marker