The Ultimate Sacrifice: The last full measure of devotion

Milton L. Adams, Pfc; Army Ser. # 39026959; Company C, 323 Infantry, 81st Wildcat Division WWII: Written by Golden V. Adams Jr. on Veteran's Day (50th Anniversary), 11 Nov 1995 at Provo, Utah.

Milton LaVar Adams was born 9 May 1910 in East Garland, Box Elder County, Utah to William Albert and Virgina Brann Adams. After receiving his training at Camp San Luis Obispo, California as a member of Company C, 323 Infantry of the 81st Wildcat Division in the United States Army, he sailed to Peleliu Island, one of the southern islands of Palau in the Western Pacific Ocean, just east of the Philippines.

Milton LaVar Adams, 1944

On 24 May 1944, Milton wrote to his sister Maude and her family from Camp Beale, California upon hearing that one of his brothers-in-law (Russell Jenkins) didn't make it into the service:

They find me physically fit any time I feel ailing. I produce. Usually have been under difficult situations time to time. I'm glad for Ruth, however. Me and the other one [Golden, my dad] will probably make up for any Deficiencies if possible.... Wish I could have done more in the past. But it's over now. Feel well.... Good Wishes. Love, Milton

In his last letter to my father, (his brother) dated 16 Oct 1944, Uncle Milton wrote from Peleliu Island in the Western Pacific: We took this Island once the Japs [Japanese] were here. A bunch of blisters broke out on my hip. I'm getting treatment on the Island. Am OK now. Leave by tomorrow. Fierce Fighting goes on out here.... You said you hoped I was in the best part of the Pacific. There isn't much best. It's a long old grind to go any where. Coconut trees are our only natural thing of note as I've saw this way.... When I feel good I don't have a thing to worry about. It's all another day to me. Many grievances come close at hand to know it's no picnic. There are many good men and leaders, out this way.... I'm going to be plenty busy I guess.... Love Milton....

A Western Union Telegram from Washington D.C. at 1:28 P.M. on 24 Nov 1944 bore the grave news:

William A. Adams, Box 446, Tremonton, Utah

The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son Private First Class Milton L. Adams was killed in action on twenty nine October on Peleliu Island Letter Follows [signed] Witsel Acting The Adjutant General

On 1 Nov 1944, George R. Wagner, Captain, 323 Infantry Commanding, wrote the following letter:

Mr. William A. Adams; Tremonton, Utah

Dear Mr. Adams

I sincerely regret to inform you that your Son, Milton, was killed in action on Peleliu Island, Palau Group 29 Oct 1944.

You have the deepest sympathy of the officers and men of this organization in your bereavement. Milton was held in high regard by all member [sic] of the command. He was a splendid soldier and outstanding of character. His loss will be deeply felt by many of his friends.

I wish to express my own personal sympathy in your loss.... Yours very sincerely [signed] George R. Wagner

This letter was not postmarked until Jan 11, 1945 by the U.S. Army Postal Service A.P.O.

Prior to receiving this letter, Corporal Stanley Johnson, Co. L, 323 Infantry of 81st "Wildcat" Division, and a fellow serviceman and friend of the Adams family, him being the same age as my father and 10 years younger than Milton wrote a letter postmarked 27 Dec 1944 U.S. Army Postal Service A.P.O. to Will Adams and dated 14 December 1944.

Dear Adams Family,

Yesterday I received a letter from my parents telling me that you had been notified of the death on October 29 on Peleliu island of your boy Milton. I am writing to tell you all I know of the circumstances of his death. Though it may seem hard to realize that such a thing has happened, I thought it would make you feel better to hear the details from someone who knows both you and Milton.

Milton was in the first battalion and I in the third battalion of this regiment. In the battle of Peleliu island, those two battalions were pushing toward each other and had an unknown number of Japs cornered between them. The fighting was done on a high, rocky, steep ridge, which had deep, jagged valleys cutting across it. The rock walls and cliffs of the ridge were honeycombed with caves where the Japs hid during the day. It was almost impossible to see them or to tell that they were there.

On the 29th of October, Milton was a number of a small patrol that went down into a small draw looking forJap positions. He had returned to his company only two or three days before that day after having received a minor injury. A Jap sniper had fired on him; the bullet went through his helmet and barely grazed the side of his head. He was not hurt at all, but thought he was very lucky to have escaped being injured.

On the 29th, Milton had a bazooka with him and was firing into caves where he thought there might be Jap troops. The patrol he was on discovered some Jap snipers among the rocks on a cliff above them. The Japs began firing, and Milton was hit. He died at once, without knowing he had been hurt. He felt no pain at all.

A cemetery has been built here for members of the marines and this division. I have visited it, and can tell you that it is as attractive as it can be made in a place like this.

Most of the island is made up of hard, sharp, gritty coral rock; but there are a few spots along the beach where there is smooth white sand, and the cemetery has been built in one of these areas. It is within a few feet of the ocean, and the water ripples up onto the beach near it. The area has been leveled off, and all brush and weeds have been cleared away. The graves have been laid out in straight rows, and each one is marked with a white cross. There are neat walks around the cemetery, and some tropical bushes have been transplanted there to make it look better. . . . Yours sincerely, [signed] Stanley Johnson

When a monument "dedicated to the lasting memory of those members of the Wildcat Division and attached trooper who fought and died on Peleliu Island between 25 September and 27 November 1944:, a shaft made of native materials was unveiled on 27 December 1944, an address of Major General Paul J. Mueller, Commanding General, 81st Infantry Division to the veterans of the Palau Campaign read:

The operations of this island by the Wildcat Division began on September 25th. A vigorous attack was carried through for several days and won the western side of the island, drove a wedge across the center of the north-south ridge effecting a split of the enemy's forces, and pushed on to the capture of Radar Hill and other points in northern Peleliu. The enemy paid dearly for its opposition to the well organized, vigorous, and determined drive by the troops of the Wildcat Division.

The final phase for the Division on Peleliu began on October 15th when our troops occupied the perimeter surrounding the enemy who was making his final stand in those rough coral hills to the north of us. Here the fanatical foe, without objective except to kill as many of our troops as he could, elected to fight to the death. With their mission well understood, our undaunted combat infantrymen set to the task and day after day the noose was drawn tighter around the defenders. Jagged peaks were scaled, occupied, and sandbagged by our forward elements. Efforts by the enemy to break through were turned back with deadly effect. Weeks of constant vigilance was required from positions under enemy fire that tried the patience, the physical and mental stamina, and the courage of these Infantrymen. American soldiers imbued with indominitable spirit fought in these hills of coral rock, in the caverns, fissures and caves, maneuvered over the roughest type of terrain, and ferreted out the despised foe. This mop up was long drawn out; intermittently it was furious; it was close range, man to man. On November 26th the enemy's innermost positions were entered and the defending force eliminated to the man.

The operations of the Wildcat Division on Peleliu exacted a price from America. The Wildcat Division paid a price. These silent crosses bearing the green wreathes so tenderly placed there for this ceremony, mark the last resting places of our Division dead in this cemetery. They are mute evidence of the cost of a hard-won victory. Sleeping beside them so quietly are the much greater number who made the supreme sacrifice, from the First Marine Division who so successfully established the beachhead on Peleliu. We honor also today these Marines and the few sailors who are buried here. Comrades they were in battle, and comrades in a deserved peace. . . .

This simple shaft which we have erected out of native materials. . . [to bear the words] 'In memoriam--To perpetuate the valiant deeds of the brave soldiers who rest in well-deserved peace, and with resolution that they shall not have died in vain, this monument is erected by their comrades of the 81st Infantry Division (Reinforced).' will stand as a lasting tribute to those soldiers who marched with us shoulder to shoulder during long months of training, shared with us all the joys and tribulations of garrison life and desert maneuver, and have now given the last full measure of devotion that our homeland might be free and humanity protected from unspeakable tyranny.

The cord holding the cover over this 81st Division shaft will now be unleashed. As this is done, here in the presence of these heroic dead, let us fact the solemn realization that sacrifices are necessary to maintain the principles we enjoy as a people. Let it be our heartfelt expression to the sorrowing home of these fallen comrades that we hold their husbands and sons in highest admiration and esteem.

We pray today for the peace of the souls of these deceased and for the comfort of heaven for their bereaved families. We laud the quality of their sacrifice. They were good soldiers, faithful to their mission, and an honor to the Division and the cause we alike serve.

There is nothing further we can do for them except to salute them in accordance with military custom, and then with our faces set forward, close ranks and march out proudly to our next mission. We leave them now; they shall not be forgotten. . . .

An editorial published by the 81st Inf. "Wildcat" Division, Vol 4, No 31 dated Sunday 24 June 1945 at Visayas, Philippine Island reads:

. . . In ancient Israel when God's people passed dry-shod over the waters their leaders caused them to erect a pile of stones in commemoration of the event. "When your children ask, 'What mean these stones?' you may answer, 'Hitherto hath God helped us!'" was the explanation made of their memorial. On Peleliu we have erected a tangible marker which symbolizes our devotion to the ideals and bravery of these men, and we counted on its standing here in the days of their children. Certainly the present, with assaults on the citadels of Japan still to be made, is no time to be tearing down monuments. It is not alone the desecration of a sacred memorial, as reprehensible as that may be, but it will undermine the spirit and faith of soldiers of a combat Division who are appalled at such a suggestion. The proposed act is unthinkable in war time and hardly commends itself to us as a practice in days of peace. Perhaps the memory o impersonal governments is not long. This is decidedly not the case with the soldiers who fought and suffered side by side with the men buried on Angaur and Peleliu Islands. We are earnest about this whole matter and make no apology for speaking very plainly. "If we forget the, if we cease to feel . . . We are no longer worth the blood we cost."

Milton L. Adams was posthumously awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge on 17 Oct 1945 by direction of the President of the United States for satisfactory performance in ground combat against the enemy. He was also awarded The Purple Heart.

Milton L. Adams' Headstone-27 Oct 1948-Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California

His remains were initially interred in the U.S. Armed Forces Cemetery Peleliu # 1, plot 5, row 3, grave 43, a temporary cemetery on Peleliu Island, Palau Islands. Subsequently, they were moved to Plot 4, Row 20, Grave 2583, United States Armed Forces cemetery, Manila # 2, Philippine Islands prior to 9 Jan 1948. Milton L. Adams, Private first Class, U.S. Army was buried in Grave #362, Row 12, Section B on 27 October 1948 in Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California as his final resting place. To see the photo album of his interrment, click HERE.

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Comments 1

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Tom Cormier (website) on Wednesday, 09 November 2011 20:15

WOW! That's about as real a story as it gets Golden. Amazingly, he was one of so many yet for the one it meant his entire family and all of his friends would be forever affected by it. It's awesome that those letters still exist and I'm fascinated by how they were written in those days. You have a true hero in your family.

WOW! That's about as real a story as it gets Golden. Amazingly, he was one of so many yet for the one it meant his entire family and all of his friends would be forever affected by it. It's awesome that those letters still exist and I'm fascinated by how they were written in those days. You have a true hero in your family.