This is the seventh article in a Scroll series on Ricks College and BYU-Idaho alumni who lost their lives in the service of their country.
The following are profiles of five alumni who died in the Pacific theater.
For profiles of the alumni that served and died as pilots in the Pacific, read here.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Pfc. Victor Hain Longhurst
Mortars rumbled in the distance. Sometimes it was machine gun fire. Sometimes torrents of rain drowned the noise out. That was life on Guadalcanal in late 1943. But that never stopped Victor Longhurst and his fellow Latter-day Saint marines from worshipping on Sundays. Inside a chapel built by natives with sticks, grass and palm fronds, Vic’s award-winning singing probably took the men’s minds off what was happening around them, or what was to come.
Vic was born on September 4, 1920, in Iona, Idaho, to Joseph and Josephine Longhurst.
In his youth, Vic sang in his church’s primary boys’ chorus and participated in the harmonica band. In high school, he took leading roles in several plays and operettas, played in the band, and sang solos at all contests. One year, he won first place in the school district and competed at the national meet in Ogden, Utah. His time as president of the dramatic club helped him develop leadership, but his true joy came in leading music.
A year after Vic’s graduation he served as his church congregation’s Sunday school chorister. He was only ever absent twice. Often, he would tell the Sunday school superintendent that he didn’t think he could make it to class due to work. But almost every Sunday morning, having simply worked longer the night prior, he was there.
He never complained. Instead, he cheerfully accepted every task given to him at school, church and home. And if a local widow needed wood chopped or cleaning done, he would drop everything to go help.
When his country fell into need, it came as no surprise that Vic joined the fight.
Now a part of the 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Division, Vic went into battle on the island of Bougainville, part of Papua New Guinea, on November 1, 1943.
After two months of battle, Vic’s division lost 400 men while still dealing a massive blow to the Japanese who would lose about 20,000 soldiers.
Vic was unscathed and believed that God was protecting him.
Vic’s comrades knew him by his strong religious convictions. He attended church meetings regularly and always carried pocket-sized copies of the Bible and the Doctrine & Covenants with him. He was scared like everyone else, but he hid it behind his smile and the songs he sang.
On July 21, the 3rd Division arrived at the shores of the Orote Peninsula on Guam. Before they could even land, Japanese artillery sunk 30 Marine amphibious landing crafts.
For over two weeks, the 3rd fought in the jungles capturing over 60 squares miles of territory and killing over 5,000 Japanese soldiers.
On July 27, Vic’s mortar squadron was in the middle of battle near Mt. Chachao. They needed more ammunition, so they sent Vic to get it. On his way to retrieve the ammo, a sniper on a ridge shot him in the head, killing him instantly.
Vic joined 676 other Marines from his division who were killed in Guam.
And a man who served with him, Pfc. Dean Hanson, said he had “never known a cleaner fellow for living his religion.”
Friend Merrill Bickman wrote to his family that his comrades “knew him by the way he lived.”
Despite experiencing the turmoil and trauma of bloody war, down to his last moment, Vic was the same man everyone knew and loved. He lost his life, but never lost his principles.
Pvt. Gerald Monroe Daniels
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Gerald Daniels was serving as a Latter-day Saint missionary in Tonga, a Polynesian kingdom making up over 100 South Pacific islands. Little did he know he would return to that part of the world two years later to liberate the Pacific from Japanese rule.
Gerald was born in Victor, Idaho, on September 14, 1918, to Scott Daniels and Leona Sinclair. He attended schools in Victor and Jackson, Wyoming before enrolling at Ricks College to study agriculture.
When the U.S. went to war with Japan, Gerald was transferred from Tonga to California to finish his mission. Upon returning home, he married Marie Hatch in the Salt Lake Temple and entered the Marines a year later.
Gerald first saw action with the 21st Marines at Bougainville in November 1943. Over the next two years he would fight in Guam and Iwo Jima. His division moved back to Guam in April 1945. In Guam, they trained for Operation Olympic, the invasion of the Japanese island of Kyushu that was going to happen on November 1. Gerald was killed by an accidental explosion on August 2, 13 days before Japan surrendered.
Ens. Herald Clark Bennion
Herald Bennion was born in Farmington, Utah, on September 12, 1914, to Edwin Bennion and Mary Clark.
He graduated from Ricks College and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in entomology from Utah State Agricultural College (now Utah State University). He received his Ph.D in entomology from Iowa State College. While in Iowa, he married Marjorie Prior. After completing his coursework at ISC, he was hired by California Packing Company in Ogden, Utah.
His daughter, Patricia Ann, was born on December 9, 1942. He received his commission in the Navy the next February and was shipped to the Pacific in May.
Herald was aboard the U.S.S. John Penn on August 13, 1943, when it sank after a torpedo struck it. He was listed as missing until the next month, though his body was never recovered. For his services he was awarded the Purple Heart.
Pvt. Richard Wesley Purcell
Richard Purcell was born on March 19, 1919, in the Plano area outside Rexburg, Idaho, to Arthur Purcell and Agnes Hemsley. He served in the Army Air Forces and died in Townsville, Australia on July 14, 1942.
Pvt. Ross Groesbeck Turner
Ross Turner was born on February 18, 1921, in Rexburg, Idaho, to Franklin Turner and Jessie Groesbeck. He died on Saipan in the Mariana Islands two weeks after the battle officially ended. The U.S. victory on Saipan put the Army’s B-29 bombers in range of the Japanese mainland.