From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall
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Willard Holdredge '39

Date of birth: January 7, 1917

Date of death: December 15, 1944

Age: 27

Lucky Bag

From the 1939 Lucky Bag:


Willard was taken as a prisoner of war following the fall of Corregidor and was killed on December 15, 1944 when American aircraft mistakenly attacked the POW ship (Oryoku Maru) he was aboard.

His father was listed as next of kin.

Willard was mentioned repeatedly in FROM SHANGHAI TO CORREGIDOR: Marines in the Defense of the Philippines, by J. Michael Miller.

He was sworn in as 1st Lieutenant on January 8, 1942 with Carter Simpson '39 (from Carter's diary, linked below). The two classmates were the only officers in their air-aircraft battery, and Carter writes about Willard's experiences throughout.

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant Willard Barrett Holdredge (MCSN: 0-5946), United States Marine Corps, for distinguished service in action while serving with Company I, Third Battalion, FOURTH Marines (Detached) as Commanding Officer of Battery C, Navy Bluejacket-Marine Battalion (Mariveles), in action against the enemy in the defense of the Bataan Peninsula, Luzon, Philippine Islands, from 28 December 1941 to 8 April 1942. Lieutenant Holdrege commanded an anti-aircraft battery which, due to conditions of terrain, was completely exposed and subjected to repeated aerial bombardments. By his courage and efficiency, and with complete disregard for his own safety, Lieutenant Holdrege maintained his battery at the peak of battle efficiency in action and thus materially contributed to the defense of the Mariveles area. From 23 to 31 January 1942, he rendered invaluable services while serving with a composite Bluejacket-Marine Battalion which had been hastily formed to expel a strong enemy penetration which dangerously threatened the Miravalis area of Bataan. By his courage, energy, and splendid qualities of leadership he materially contributed to the success of that action which resulted in the enemy being isolated on Longoskawayan Points where it was destroyed. His action at all times were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: December 28, 1941 - April 8, 1942
Service: Marine Corps
Rank: First Lieutenant
Company: Company I
Battalion: 3d Battalion
Regiment: 4th Marines (Detached)
Division: Navy Bluejacket-Marine Battalion (Mariveles)

Prisoner of War Medal

From Hall of Valor:

First Lieutenant Willard Barrett Holdredge (MCSN: 0-5946), United States Marine Corps, was captured by the Japanese after the fall of Corregidor, Philippine Islands, on 6 May 1942, and was held as a Prisoner of War until his death while still in captivity.

General Orders: NARA Database: Records of World War II Prisoners of War, created, 1942 - 1947
Action Date: May 6, 1942 - MIA in Captivity
Service: Marine Corps
Rank: First Lieutenant
Division: Prisoner of War (Philippine Islands)

Class of 1939 Marines at the Fall of Corregidor

At least seven Marines of the Class of 1939 were captured by the Japanese when Corregidor fell in May 1942; six of them perished in captivity. Four were awarded the Navy Cross for their heroism and distinguished service in six months of combat under arduous and increasingly desperate conditions. A fifth was awarded the Navy Cross for action in the Korean War.

Two men — William Hogaboom and Willard Holdredge — had extremely similar experiences, and are often mentioned together in after-action reports. Carter Simpson's was also similar; he also managed to keep an exceptionally interesting diary that survived the war. All three of these Marines were killed during or immediately after the attack on Oryoku Maru on December 14, 1945.

A fourth classmate, Ralph Mann, Jr., died in captivity in September 1942.

The final two, Hugh Tistadt, Jr. and John Fantone, survived the Oryoku Maru attack but perished in POW camps a few months later.

A seventh classmate, William Harris, was also captured, but escaped by swimming across Manila Bay from Corregidor to Bataan on May 22, 1942. He was later recaptured and tortured by the Japanese but survived the war to personally witness the Japanese surrender aboard USS Missouri. He was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously for his heroism in the Korean War.

Memorial Hall Error

Multiple sources list his rank as Captain; Memorial Hall lists 1LT. His classmate, William Hogaboom '39—who was also awarded the Navy Cross, also captured, and also killed in the air strike on this POW ship—was posthumously promoted; believe it likely Willard was as well.

Class of 1939

Willard is one of 77 members of the Class of 1939 on Virtual Memorial Hall.