“Corp. Raymond Harry Holwig, 23, U.S. Marine Corps, was killed in action in the Pacific area, according to a telegram received by his wife,” announced the Lykens Standard on August 11, 1944.
Corporal Holwig perished on the island of Saipan during intense combat on July 7, 1944, as U.S. forces fought to clear the island of Japanese resistance. Attached to the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Division as an assistant cook, Holwig was likely serving well behind the front when a Japanese “banzai” attack broke through American lines and smashed rear echelon units in an epic, last-ditch attempt by the defenders to throw U.S. forces back into the sea. The attack failed and the island was declared secure two days later, on July 9, 1944.
More than 4,000 Japanese soldiers were killed in the assault, almost 100 percent of those engaged. Almost 1,000 Marines were killed or wounded in the 12 hour fight, including Corporal Holwig.
Securing Saipan and its strategically important airbases meant that long-range American bombers could reach the home islands of Japan. Within four months, B-29 bombers were beginning regular raids on Japanese cities and other targets across the Pacific.
Holwig’s wife Eleanor learned of her husband’s fate on August 8, 1944 when a War Department telegram found her living in Gratz, Pennsylvania, a few miles from Holwig’s hometown of Wiconisco. In the days that followed, remembrances were published in neighboring towns’ newspapers and in the Harrisburg Telegraph in the state capital.
Between August 11 and August 18, the Lykens Standard published two separate obituaries for Corporal Holwig.
From August 11:
Corp. Raymond H. Holwig, of Wiconisco Killed in Pacific Area
Corp. Raymond Harry Holwig, 23, U. S. Marine Corps, was killed killed in action in the Pacific area, according to a telegram received by his wife, Mrs. Harry Holwig, the former Miss Eleanor Smeltz, of Gratz, Tuesday. August 8th.
Corp. Holwig was born in Wiconisco and was the son of the late Mrs. Annie Witmer Holwig and Harry Holwig, now residing in Elizabethville. He attended the Wiconisco schools and after his mother’s death resided with his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. George Witmer.
July 26th, 1942 he was united in marriage to Miss Eleanor Smeltz, of Gratz, who with his grandfather, Mr. George Witmer, of Wiconisco, and his father, Harry Holwig, of Elizabethville, survive. Two brothers, Staff Sgt. William George Holwig, U. S. Marines; Edward Henry Holwig, S. 1c, and one sister, Miss Margaret Margaret Holwig, who makes her home with her grandfather, also survives.
Corp. Holwig, who was inducted in the U. S. Marines, July 25, 1942, was last heard of on Saipan Island, in the Pacific where he met his brother, William, while in the front lines.
He was a member of the Wiconisco Methodist Church, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Lykens Hose Company Band.
From August 18:
According to a telegram received by his widow, Mrs. Raymond H. Holwig, of Gratz, from the War Department Tuesday, August 8th, her husband, Corp. Raymond H. Holwig, was killed in action on July 7th, on Saipan Island, in the Pacific.
Corp. Holwig is well known in this section, having lived for a number of years in Lykens, and more recently in Wiconisco, making his home with his grandfather, Mr. George Witmer, and family.
Beside his widow who was formerly Miss Eleanor Smeltz, of Gratz, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Luther Smeltz, of Gratz, he is survived by his father, Mr. Harry Holwig, of Elizabethville; two brothers, Staff Sergeatn William George Holwig, Edward Henry Holwig, S. 1/c, one sister, Miss Margaret Holwig and his grandfather, Mr. George Witmer, of Wiconisco.
The remains of Corporal Raymond H. Holwig were initially buried in a Marine Corps cemetery in the Marianas Islands, but later removed to the National Memorial Cemetery Of The Pacific, in Hawaii.
His friends and family held a memorial service for him at the Wiconisco Methodist Episcopal Church on September 17, 1944. Corporal Holwig has a memorial stone in the Wiconisco Methodist Cemetery.
Featured Image: Corporal Raymond H. Holwig, from the Lykens Standard, August 18, 1944
Read more about the Marines Corps in the fight on Saipan on July 7, 1944