A sobering element of any American military cemetery on foreign soil is The Tablets of the Missing – a listing of the dead with no known graves. These listings always include thousands lost at sea.
The American Military Cemetery and Memorial in Manila is the largest American military cemetery on foreign soil. Over 17,000 graves are arranged in a circular layout encompassing 125 acres. Constructed in the middle are two hemicycles, listing a staggering 36,282 names of Americans who lost their lives in the South Pacific during WWII and have no known resting place. I first visited this site in the early 1970s. The scope of the collective sacrifice forever resting within this beautiful and peaceful place took my breath away – an emotion that remains with me today.
On that first visit I randomly jotted down the names of a few men on the Tablets of the Missing, hoping to eventually ‘humanize’ the experience somehow – to learn more about these men and the actions where they lost their lives. Years later I was able to determine that one of the names I jotted down was lost on the U.S.S Mount Hood (AE-11).
The Mount Hood was an ammunition ship that exploded due to unknown causes on November 10, 1944 while anchored in Seeadler Harbour at Manus Island (Admiralty Islands). The explosion killed all 295 men aboard and severely damaged 22 other ships in the harbor. The repair ship U.S.S. Mindanao was alongside Mount Hood when the explosion occurred. 82 of the Mindanao crew also died that day. 371 sailors on other ships in the harbor were injured. An investigation board was never able to ascertain the exact cause of the accident, but it was not due to combat. War is a dangerous business – and all casualties are not due to combat. Whether by combat or accident, the loss is felt just as strongly by family, friends and shipmates.
While researching the history of the U.S.S. Mount Hood, I came across a beautiful YouTube tribute from a niece to an uncle she never knew. Seaman Second Class J.C. McGuire of Alabama died on November 10, 1944 while stationed aboard the Mount Hood. His remains were never recovered. He was eighteen when he died. Please take the time to view the short video. It puts a very human face to a name forever engraved on a marble wall so far from the home he left during WWII.