Perry residents had the rare opportunity today to honor a soldier killed in action in World War II but only now receiving military funeral rites.
The Patriot Guard Riders conducted an escort Tuesday for U.S. Marine Corps Pvt. Palmer Sherman Haraldson, whose remains were recovered on a remote island and are to be interred in Fort Dodge.
The procession did not pass through Perry but near the town. Haraldson’s remains left the Des Moines International Airport at 11:30 a.m. and traveled west on Iowa Highway 141 and then turned north on U.S. Highway 169.
Perry American Legion Post 85 Commander Mike Kelley of Perry was among those who lined the motorcade route to show his support for a fallen comrade.
“This is the very least we can do for them, considering all they did for us,” said Kelley.
Haraldson grew up in Vincent, Iowa, and enlisted in the Marines in 1943. He completed basic training in San Diego, Calif., in April 1943 and in July left for New Zealand, where he joined Company C, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines in October in preparation for the invasion of Tarawa.
The capture from the Japanese of Betio Island on the Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands was considered essential to the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet’s Central Pacific Campaign.
Heraldson was killed while his unit was attacking a Japanese stronghold on Betio Island Nov. 22, 1943. The island was secured the following day, and the majority of the assault force departed Betio Island Nov. 24, leaving behind a small number of personnel to care for the dead.
The dead were buried in temporary graves until the end of the war, when the U.S. began recovery operations in March 1946. Due to bad record keeping and massive reconstruction on the island, only 532 of the 1,100 graves were found. Haraldson’s remains were declared non-recoverable at that time.
In March 2015, after years of research, Mark Noah, director of History Flight Inc., a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to finding, recovering and repatriating America’s war dead to U.S. soil, announced the discovery and recovery of the remains of 36 Marines, including the remains of Palmer Haraldson.
Ceremonies for Haraldson began at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, with a rally and briefing at the Des Moines International Airport at the service gate at the south end of the complex. The escort then traveled the 95 miles to Bruce Funeral Home, 923 First Ave. S. in Fort Dodge.
An honor mission will be conducted Wednesday, June 22, with a noon rally and briefing at the Bruce Funeral Home, followed by interment at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Fort Dodge.