Public invited to attend memorial lying-in-honor and funeral Saturday and Sunday
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The remains of 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., arrived in Knoxville from Hawaii Sept. 25, bringing his family’s 72-year odyssey closer to conclusion.
Bonnyman was killed on Nov. 22, 1943 in the Battle of Tarawa. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His remains, along with those of hundreds of other Marines, were lost after they were buried on Tarawa following the fighting.
His parents, Alexander Bonnyman, Sr. and Frances Berry Bonnyman, spent years trying to learn the location of their son’s remains and have them brought to Knoxville, where he grew up. Others, including his younger brother, George Gordon Bonnyman, and daughter Frances Bonnyman Evans, continued the quest for decades without success.
“I do want my son’s remains returned to Knoxville, Tennessee. … If any further or additional request or advice is needed to insure (sic) his remains being returned to me here, I shall appreciate your writing to me,” Alexander Bonnyman, Sr. wrote to Marine Commandant Lt. Gen. A.A. Vandegrift in 1944.
An American Graves Commission Service mission to Tarawa in 1946 was unable to locate more than half of the Marines and U.S. Navy personnel killed in the battle. In 1949, the Bonnyman family was informed that Lt. Bonnyman’s remains were “unrecoverable.”
In 2007, Mark Noah, founder of History Flight, Inc., began researching the long-lost graves of Tarawa. The Florida-based nonprofit group began sending teams of field researchers to the island of Betio, where the battle took place, in 2008., An archaeological team led by Kristen N. Baker located the site of Cemetery 27, where Bonnyman and 39 other Marines were recorded as having been buried, in March. When the team concluded its work in July, it had recovered 35 sets of remains from the island.
Alexander Bonnyman, Jr. was born May 2, 1910 in Atlanta. He was raised in Knoxville and attended Princeton University. He was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico and operating a copper mine near Santa Rosa when he joined the Marine Corps Reserve in July 1942.
Lt. Bonnyman’s casketed remains will lie in honor at the East Tennessee Veteran’s Memorial, World’s Fair Park, Knoxville, Tenn. from 2:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, with a short memorial service from 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Lt. Bonnyman will be buried in a family service with full military honors and a flyover at noon, Sunday, Sept. 27 at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery, 5315 Kingston Pike in Knoxville.
Mrs. Diane Wright-Green says
Dear Mr. Evans,
I am sure that you know that your Grandmother, Josephine Bonnyman was a member of Knoxville 89 Chapter, UDC. Her name is on a plaque at the Front Door of the Bleak House/Confederate Memorial Hall. She was on our chapter’s executive board when we purchased the Bleak House in 1959. The board did an excellent job of making the purchase of this house for our chapter a reality! Both of your Grandparents are heroes to us!!
I am sorry that only my husband and I were standing in front of the Bleak House as you passed by. We also had members watching from the front door! It was so moving to us!
We have posted on FB, Knoxville 89, United Daughters of the Confederacy a little about your Grandparents!
I know that you live far away, but if you ever travel to Knoxville again please visit our chapter. It would be wonderful if you might speak to our chapter about both of your Josephine and Alexander!
Knoxville 89 Chapter, UDC
Clay Bonnyman Evans says
Thank you so much, Ms. Wright-Green, for remembering my grandmother as well as my grandfather.
Rick Voorhees says
I am glad that your Grandfather remains have been Laid to rest. I just learned of the recovery of his remains earlier today. I was told by John Stevens at the WWII re-enacted in Rockford IL. It laid heavy on my heart that the remains were never found until now. My Dad spoke highly of the Lieutenant. I did find the photo of the Lieutenant on New Zealand in a group of 25 photos my father stored away. I will be glad to share it with your family.
Rick Voorhees, son Major Robert E Voorhees, USMC 2nd 8th K, SS
Clay Bonnyman Evans says
Hi, Rick. You may remember that we spoke several years ago. I would very much like to see the photo. My email is claybonnyman (at) gmail, if you’d like to send a copy.
Thank you for the kind words, and for sharing memories of your father with me.
suzy herron says
what a very special day. I hope Lt. Bonnyman will have family and all of Knoxville in attendance. A third of our men were wiped out in this War, and such valiant and fine men they were.
I would like to think that everyone in Tennessee will know of this coming home and will be sobered and tru;ly thankful for their gain brought about from his and so many young men’s loss of life given, that we might live life freely and to the maximum.
Clay, I spoke to you back in July. My grandfather was also on Tarawa and served with yours in the 2nd pioneers. I’m so glad he is finally home with his family.
Clay Bonnyman Evans says
Thank you, Jeff.