By Kevin Shannahan
Our nation gathered one of its own back home this week. Corporal Raymond Clark Snapp, United States’ Marine Corps, was laid to rest Friday, Sept. 15 at the Northwest Louisiana Veteran’s Cemetery. Corporal Snapp was 24 years old when he was killed on the first day of the 96 hour Battle of Tarawa in 1943. The fighting was some of the fiercest of the war in the Pacific. Of the roughly 12,000 Marines of the 2nd Marine Division at Tarawa, 3,166 became casualties. The ferocity of the fighting was such that the dead could not be be buried until the battle was won and the island cleared of Japanese forces. Corporal Snapp was buried on the island of Betio where his body remained until being repatriated to the National Cemetery in Oahu, Hawaii in 1947. Unfortunately, his remains were not identifiable at the time and he was buried in 1949 with fellow unknown casualties from the battle named only as Tarawa unknown X-275.
That is where the matter would have ended were it not for the efforts of a truly remarkable group of men and women, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Their mission is to account for missing service members from the nation’s wars. The chaos of battle, aircraft crashes, the sheer destructiveness of modern weapons, incomplete records and the passage of the years are some of the factors making the agency’s mission difficult. Advances over the years in methods of identification meant there was a chance to positively identify at least some of the men lost at Tarawa. In October 2016, Tarawa Unknown X-275 and 93 of his fellow Marines were exhumed and sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s Laboratory. Using DNA and a variety of other methods, they were able to establish that Tarawa unknown X-275 was Corporal Raymond Clark Snapp. It was time to bring him home.
Corporal Snapp was flown from Hawaii to Dallas, escorted by brother Marines. From there, he was driven to a funeral home in Shreveport. For that final trip, his remains were escorted by Marines, law enforcement and the Patriot Guard Riders as ordinary citizens paid their respects along the way. The military honors were rendered by Marines from B Co., 1st BN of the 23rd Marines, a reserve unit out of Bossier City. Lt. Col. Reginald Williams, USMCR, presented the flag from Corporal Snapp’s coffin to his family.
Corporal Snapp fell in Battle 74 years ago. None of the Marines in his burial detail nor all but a few of the Veterans present were alive then. That does not matter. The service and the obvious care and respect shown by the Marines, both current and former, the meticulous upkeep of the cemetery, the everyday men, women and fellow Veterans who came to the funeral of a man they did not know, are all part of what Sir Winston Churchill called “The long continuity of our institutions.” This respect for the past is part of the glue that holds our nation together from generation to generation. Corporal Snapp is part of a thread that runs from our country’s founding through Belleau Wood, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Chosin, Hue, Afghanistan, Iraq and hundreds of other places. From the youngest private in the burial detail to the oldest Veteran in attendance, all are part of a legacy that will endure as long as our nation does.
We do not know much about Corporal Snapp, almost nothing aside from the historical record. That record does, however give us an insight into his character. The Navy Chaplain who gave his eulogy researched his record and found out that he had been seriously wounded during the Battle for Guadalcanal. He was evacuated to Hawaii. At that point, he could have been repatriated back to the United States, having been wounded. He could have honorably gone home, having done his duty. He refused to do so and asked to be returned to his unit. On the 20th of November, 1943, he died with his face to the enemy, faithful until death to his fellow Marines and his nation. On the 15th of September Tarawa unknown X-275 was finally brought home – fair winds and following seas, Corporal Raymond Clark Snapp.
The Natchitoches Parish Journal was honored to be able to photograph the service for Corporal Snapp. Copy protection is off and downloads are enabled. Anyone may download any they wish.