Frank Leroy "Bud" Athon Jr. was a United States Marine was killed in action during during the Battle of Tarawa on Betio Island of the Gilbert Islands, now part of Kiribati. His remains were identified on July 27, 2020.
Frank Athon Jr. was born on June 12, 1914 to Frank and Ida Athon in Cincinnati, Ohio. Nicknamed "Bud," he and his younger brother, Joseph, joined the United States Marine Corps Reserves on October 27, 1942 from their hometown. By then he was working for the Butcher's Hide Association and was married to a woman named Marcella Ballard. Together, the brothers served in Alpha Company, 1st Battalion of the 6th Marines (A-1/6) of the 2nd Marine Division. Bud's rank at the time of his death was Private First Class.
Battle of Tarawa
The 2nd Marine Division landed on Betio Island on November 20, 1943 as part of Operation Galvanic, the U.S. Invasion of the Gilbert Islands. The mission was to take control of the airfield on the Tarawa Atoll so that Japanese Imperial Army would be less close to the United States and the United States would be closer to Japan. Most of the fighting would occur on Betio Island as it was the largest of the islands on Tarawa Atoll. This battle would prove critical for the American offensive and the first time they faced serious Japanese opposition as they were well-supplied and prepared and fought to the last man standing. On November 22, 1943, the third day of the battle, Athon was killed in action.
The day after Athon was killed in action, U.S. Forces would take over the island. Overall, 1,696 U.S. Marines were killed and 2,101 were wounded and 4,690 Imperial Japanese Army soldiers and construction laborers were killed and 146 were captured.
After his death, Athon was awarded the following medals: the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation, the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Campaign Medal, the Marine Corp Expeditionary Medal, and the Gold Star Lapel Button. The awards were presumably accepted by his family who were informed of his death by the Navy Department.
Athon's brother Joseph survived the Battle of Tarawa and passed away on February 10, 1977. Athon's wife, Marcella, passed away on August 14, 2003.
Athon's remains were recovered and buried in Row D of Cemetery 33 on Betio Island. However, they were not recovered when the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company conducted remains recovery operations between 1946 and 1947. In 1949, a military review board declared him non-recoverable.
His name is inscribed within the Courts of Missing at the Honolulu Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii in Row 2.
On March 2019, History Flight Inc. discovered what is thought of as Cemetery 33 on Betio Island. The remains of U.S. Marines found were sent to a DPAA laboratory and identified based on historical records, circumstances, dental analysis, and DNA evidence. Using these techniques, Frank "Bud" Athon Jr.'s remains were identified on July 27, 2020. His family received "The Call" shortly after his identification.
Athon will be buried in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio and his funeral service will be conducted on November 11, 2020 at 9:00 AM.