World War II Casualties for Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard
BLANCHETTE, Alberic M., Pvt.,
USMCR. Parents, Mr. and Mrs.
Benjamin Blanchette, 12 Maple
Ave., Caribou.
Alberic M. Blanchette
Private, U.S. Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
Entered the Service From: Maine
Service #: 350357
Date of Death: November 20, 1943
Honolulu Memorial
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Purple Heart
On November 21, 1943, on the
afternoon of the second day of battle
for the Japanese-held island of Betio
Marine Colonel Davis Shoup, wrote a
quick note updating his commanding
officer on his regiment’s situation,
“Casualties: many. Percentage dead:
not known. Combat efficiency: we are
After American forces captured the
island of Guadalcanal from the
Japanese, they began planning an
island hopping campaign across the
central Pacific to Japan. In order to
support the thrust into the Philippines
and Japan itself, forward air bases
would be needed. The heavily
defended air bases in the Mariana
Islands would have to be taken, but
first the Gilbert and Marshall Island
would have to be captured, using each
captured island as a base to capture
the next. The first island assaulted was
to be Betio Island in the Tarawa Atoll in
the Gilbert Islands, some 2500 miles
southwest of Pearl Harbor.
The Japanese realized how important
the Tarawa Atoll was in the defense of
their empire and spent a year heavily
fortifying the island, and defended it
with nearly 5000 men. As Martin Russ
wrote in his book “Line of Departure:
Tarawa”, “On the tiny island of Betio ,
the principal island of the Tarawa Atoll,
the Japanese had constructed one of
the most formidable fortresses in the
history of warfare.” Rear Admiral Keiji
Shibazaki, commander of Japanese
forces on Betio, boasted, "it would take
one million men, one hundred years, to
conquer the island.” 5600 marines of
the 2nd Marine Division took the island
in 76 hours, but not without paying a
heavy sacrifice.
Over 900 marines died during the 76
hours it took to take the one-square-
mile island, many were killed in the
initial landing. The amphibious craft
came in at low tide and were caught up
on the coral reef. The Marines had to
disembark and wade their way nearly
500 yards to the beach. They were cut
to pieces by Japanese machine-gun
fire, mortars and artillery. Those who
reached the beach fought on and
eventually reinforced. The Marines
secured the island on November 23,
1943, after a three- day battle of
“utmost savagery.” Only 17 Japanese
defenders survived, along with 129
Korean forced laborers, in all over
4600 of the island’s defenders were
After the battle, the Marines buried
their dead and mass, shallow graves.
The plan was to retrieve the bodies
and bring them home after the war. But
military construction units covered
many of the graves while building an
airfield. In 1946, excavation teams
could only find about half of the buried
Marines, the rest over 500 Marines are
still listed as missing.
Among those Marines killed on Tarawa
and never recovered are three Maine
Pvt. Alberic Blanchette, K Company,
3rd Marine Battalion, 2nd Marine Regt.
was killed in action on the first day of
the battle November 20, 1943. Alberic
was born May 24, 1924, the son of Mr.
and Mrs. Benjamin Blanchette of
Caribou. He was 20.
Pfc. Fernand Ouellette, A Company,
1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regt. was
killed in action on the first day of the
battle November 20, 1943. Fernand
was born in Lewiston the son of Mr.
and Mrs. Donat Ouelette. He left
Edward Little Highschool in his Junior
year to join the Marines.
Pfc. Fernand Russell, E Company, 2nd
Marine Battalion, 2nd Marine Regt.
Fernand was also killed in action on
the first day of the battle November 20,
1943. Fernand was born in Aroostook
County and attended schools in
Winslow. He was the son of Mrs.
Louise M. Russell of Winslow. His
mother was notified of his death on
Christmas Eve. Semper Memento.