The theme for week 2 in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “Family Legend” and the story I am going to tell is what popped into my head. I don’t hear many tales from either side of my family, but this is one of the few that I do remember hearing frequently over the course of my life.
The Fairhurst Brothers
My maternal grandfather, Harold Fairhurst, had two older brothers, Wilfred Fairhurst who was born in Leigh, England on 15 July 1914 and Edwin Fairhurst who was born in Jefferson County, Ohio on 23 May 1917. Both were raised in Ohio, moving to Akron by 1930. When World War II claimed the United States, both were working for the rubber companies, Wilfred for Goodrich and Edwin for the Seiberling Rubber Company (this was the Seiberling’s venture after they resigned from Goodyear in 1921). Wilfred joined the Marines while Edwin signed up for the Army.
The Battle of Saipan
On a transport on 5 June 1944 that left Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and made its way to the Pacific Island of Saipan, both Marine Sergeant Wilfred Fairhurst and his brother, Army Staff Sergeant Edwin Fairhurst were on board.
The battle of Saipan was the Pacific Theatre’s D-Day. The battle officially began on 15 June 1944 and ended with a United States victory on 9 July 1944. Initial bombardments began on 13 June 1944 by battleships, destroyers and mine sweepers. Naval bombardments began on 14 June 1944 and then 8,000 Marine Corps landed the West Coast of Saipan on 15 June 1944 that officially began the battle with the Army arriving in Aslito on 16 June 1944.
The fighting was intense despite General Hideki Tojo, Japan’s Prime Minister, swearing that Saipan could not be taken. He was ousted out of office a week after the United States declared victory on 9 July 1944. The battle resulted in 3,000 deaths and 13,000 wounded for the United States and over 27,000 Japanese soldiers were loss, as well as thousands of Saipan’s civilians, fearful of the United States due to the Japanese propaganda, as they jumped to their death from cliff’s at the northern end of the island.
The battle that took place on Saipan was important for the Pacific Theatre as it provided the United States with a strategic location to have a base where our new long-range B-29 bombers could be launched.
Despite the Battle of Saipan “officially” ending, Japanese resistance soldiers and civilians led by Captain Sakae Oba evaded American troops throughout the jungle and conducted attacks. Though it isn’t clear from any of the news articles I’ve read, I’m guessing that one of these such attacks is what killed my great-uncle, Staff Sergeant Edwin Fairhurst.
On 18 July 1944 while cleaning up after the battle, a Japanese fighter threw a grenade that exploded leaving shrapnel in Edwin’s stomach and legs. He died July 22. Wilfred claims that Edwin “got the fellow before he fell“. The legend in our family lore goes that it was Wilfred who went and picked his brother up off the battlefield and carried him to safety.
He Finally Came Home
It wasn’t until 5 years later that Edwin’s body returned home to be buried. His official funeral took place on 15 January 1949 with his final resting place being Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Cuyahoga Falls (Wilfred is buried there as well, though he passed away in 1956).
Edwin was never married and had no children.
If you are a budding genealogist and would like to write more about your family but aren’t sure where to start, take a peek at Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.