WWII Fallen Marine Finally Comes Home
Courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar / 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
October 29, 2019
Staff Sgt. Wesley L. Kroenung was 24 years old when he made the
commitment to join the United States Marine Corps and become a
Marine Corps combat cameraman. Before long, Kroenung found himself
storming the shores of Tarawa, where he would ultimately make the
greatest sacrifice by laying down his life for his country.
August 14, 2019 - Marines
escort Staff Sgt. Wesley L. Kroenung’s, casket down to the
families at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego.
Kroenung’s remains were buried on the island of Tarawa
originally after his death on November 20, 1943. Now,
rests in the Miramar National Cemetery after his family was
identified through DNA testing. (U.S. Marine photo by Lance
Cpl. Cheng Chang)
Kroenung was a talented photographer before joining the Marine
Corps due to the teachings of his father. Therefore, it was only
natural he would be trained in the profession as a combat
In the summer of 1943, a number of talented
photographers were selected for training at the Academy for Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences; Kroenung was among them. He learned to
compose shots, handle cameras and tell a story that would align with
the Corps’ public relations needs.
Today, the combat photographer M.O.S.
School is called Defense Information School and located in Fort
Due to Kroenung’s proficiency in
photography, he earned high grades in his class and would later be
stationed in Hawaii before receiving orders en route to board the
PBY Catalina flying boat, and set off to Tarawa.
his instructors and even more so loved his job,” said Nancy, Staff
Sgt. Kroenung’s sister.
Nancy Lee, the younger sister of
Kroenung, said her upbringing after the death of her brother was
very difficult. Nancy was only 14 months old when the news came.
Unfortunately, she didn’t get to personally know him, however, she
always felt that his presence impacted the family greatly.
“This shattered my father, he was never the same,” said Nancy.
Nancy said her father turned to alcoholism as a coping mechanism
after the loss of his son. Wesley was a prominent figure in the
family, and the loss of his life greatly affected his loved ones.
“He resorted to alcohol as a way to mask the pain of losing
a child,” said Nancy. “It wasn’t until I had kids of my own that I
began to understand what he went through.”
that the news of Kroenung’s death came on Christmas, turning what is
a cheerful time for most into a dark time for their family.
“We never really talked about Wesley, probably because it was too
painful,” said Nancy. “My father passed away never knowing what
happened to his son.”
Though the majority of the people who
knew Kroenung have already passed away, his legacy lives on. Harry
Jackson, an accomplished artist and fellow Marine, sculpted a work
of art that depicted the scene he saw that day. Jackson was standing
feet away from Kroenung when the mortar round hit and killed him.
Jackson recounted the moment in his painting “Salvatur Mundi
Crucified in Betio Amnion.” It is a 6 feet tall painting that
portray what happened to Kroenung and it hangs in Jackson’s Cody
museum to this day.
Kroenung’s reunion to the states and his
family is a long awaited moment that has finally come to fruition.
Almost 76 years after his death; Kroenung is finally being brought
home at last.
“Kroenung, along with hundreds of men were part
of the greatest generation,” said Cmdr. Don Biadog, the Marine Corps
Air Station Miramar chaplain. “He made the ultimate sacrifice so
that we wouldn’t have to today.”
During the Battle of Tarawa,
Marines stormed the enemy as a barrage of bullets and mortar rounds
soared toward them and yet they never faltered. They persisted and
fought for each other and the Marines that had fallen before them.
“I’m just so happy that we are able to finally able to bring
Wesley home,” said Nancy. “He can finally have a proper burial and
we are able to have closure.”
Kroenung was laid to rest at
the Miramar National Cemetery August 14, 2019. Kroenung was
originally buried on the island with many other men, who lost their
life that day, and due to DNA testing the family was identified, and
a hero has returned home.
America's Best | America's Greatest
Heroes | Veterans |
Answering The Call |
Our Valiant Troops
Honoring The Fallen |
Don't Weep For Me |
Remember The Fallen |
Tears For Your Fallen |