“Bones of My Grandfather” was written by Clay Bonnyman, the grandson of an American war hero, and spans the years from 1943 to 2015. This is the story of First Lieutenant Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., a U.S. Marine killed during a bloody 76-hour fight against Japanese forces on the Pacific atoll of Tarawa.
Known as Sandy, Bonnyman lost his life while leading a shore party of Marines against a strong Japanese defensive line. After crawling approximately 40 yards forward of the front line to place demolitions in the entrance of a Japanese emplacement, Bonnyman led his men forward, exposing himself to relentless enemy fire.
He persisted in returning fire, killing three more of the enemy before he died. His fearless leadership inspired his men who eventually fought off the Japanese in that sector with no further American casualties.
The U.S. Marines eventually won the Battle of Tarawa but the human cost was high on both sides. The remains of many of the fallen Marines and sailors were not returned to family. In the haze and desperation of war, bodies were buried on the tiny island, and essentially forgotten for many years.
Soon after receiving the news of his son’s death, Alexander Bonnyman, Sr., set out to find his remains and bring his son home. Using his influence as a successful business man and owner of a large coal company, he exhausted all means possible to obtain information, contacting military and government officials at the highest level.
Bonnyman died 10 years later without learning where his son was buried. After his death, his younger son, Gordon, took up the search but rebuilding momentum was tough, and he was told his brother would likely be buried at sea.
Many years later, the author was drawn to his family’s wartime history, and his grandfather’s role in the Battle of Tarawa. In 2009, the government reopened the case of the long-lost remains of the sailors and Marines. There was renewed hope and yet, within two years, interest waned and the case went cold again.
History and military buffs will want to read “Bones of My Grandfather” to find out more about how the author, with the help and encouragement of civilian Mark Noah and his nonprofit organization “History Flight,” renewed the search efforts.
Bonnyman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle of Tarawa. He left behind a wife, two young daughters and a 3-year-old son.
The author, Clay Bonnyman Evans, is the author of four other books, including “The Trail is the Teacher,” and lives on Hilton Head Island. You can find this book on all bookseller sites.
Glenda Harris is a freelance writer and editor, nature lover and aspiring novelist.