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Obituaries > GRIFFIS, OAKLEY T.

A memorial service for Sgt. Griffis will be held Sunday afternoon, July 15, in the First Baptist Church at 6 p.m. James Maloy Post, the Legion, will observe the memorial and the Rev. Ward H. Crawford, pastor, will have the balance of the program.

The sad news came to the Griffis family and Gouverneur the night before the Fourth that Marine Corps Sergeant Oakley T. Griffis, son of Mrs. Artie Griffis, West Side, had given his life in action June 18 [1945] in the desperate struggle which ended in the capture of Okinawa from the Japs.

Sgt. Griffis’ name joins that of thousands of other heroes of the United States Marines who sleep beneath white crosses in the hastily-built cemeteries on that bloody isle in the far Pacific.

He had no need to return to combat duty, but insisted that day in early March last year, when the Tribune-Press editor photographed him at the residence of his brother, Evan, East Main Street, this village, that he “was going back and help to finish the dirty job against the Japs.”

He went and the dread telegram announcing his noble end has come to his grieving family.

Sgt. Griffis came home a year ago quite unexpectedly. He had a brief leave enroute to Sampson naval hospital. He had been severely wounded in the left hand, which was badly disfigured by machine gun bullets, and he sustained a severe shock in the struggle for Bougainville in November 1943.

Fate played a strange trick on the Sergeant the day after he arrived at his mother’s home. A wire had come addressed to him asking Chief Thomas Montreville of the Gouverneur police department in behalf of Cpl B. R. Crossett, USMC, Utica, if it was possible that Sgt. Griffis had escaped death and would be home. Both Sgt. Griffis and Cpl. Crossett believed the other dead after Bougainville. Chief Montreville took the wire to Sgt. Griffis and he wired assurance he was alive to Cpl. Crossett.

Sgt. Griffis had been hospitalized on New Caledonia after Bougainville, was returned across the Pacific to a hospital at Oakland, Cal., sent then to a naval hospital at Seattle Wash., and from there to Sampson Naval hospital. The Red Cross attended the first needs of the wounded Marine Raiders at a battle station hospital on Bougainville beach, whereafter all were removed to New Caledonia.

Sgt. Griffis was far from recovered from his wounds when he visited briefly here. His hand was still partly paralyzed but he carried on always and the casual visitor would scarcely note he was not himself.

He didn’t care to talk much of his experiences and would say only that he had won two Presidential Citations, the medal of the Purple Heart, and that it was not the carrier Lexington but the destroyer Yorktown the ship was escorting when both were sunk near Midway by Jap fire.

Sgt. Griffis was aboard the destroyer Hammann. He wore when here two stars on his uniform indicating participation in two major battles in the Asiatic Pacific Theater and the American Theater.

After the great Midway battle of June 1942, when his vessel went down, he was one of the few rescued. Wounded and shell-shocked he came back to Gouverneur on sick leave of 30 days in Oct. 1942. Returning to active duty in January 1943, Sgt. Griffis trained in Marine Raider tactics for some time in California at Camp Joseph Pendleton, and was then shipped down the Pacific in the growing campaign for Bougainville.

Just before Christmas in 1943 his mother had a letter written from him at a mobile Naval hospital in which he said that he “had a busted arm.” This was his second wound of the war. He also noted he had been promoted from corporal to sergeant and added, “We gave the Japs hell. They were throwing everything they had at us.”

Sgt. Griffis had served three years with the Marines before he enlisted for this war Jan 2, 1942. April 2 of that year he joined the Marine Raiders force and almost immediately was fighting in the battle of Midway.

Sgt. Griffis was born Aug 31, 1915 in the town of DeKalb, son of Mrs. Artie Griffis, Murdock St. and the late John Griffis. His schooling was at Gouverneur and Newton Falls. He married Esther Best, Natural Dam, April 15, 1944. Survivors besides his mother are four brothers, Evan L., Gouverneur, veteran of the First World War; John H., Sandy Creek; Pfc. Floyd, with the Army at Spence Field, Ft. Moultrie, Ga., and Wm., gunner”s mate 2c, serving with Navy demolition forces in the Pacific.

There are eight sisters: Mrs. Glen (Mertie) Rourke, Madrid, whose son, Glen G., died in 1944 while on duty in the Pacific with the Navy; Mrs. George (Mary) Jennings, DeKalb Jct.; Mrs. Francis (Margaret) Houppert, Castorland; Mrs. Cyril (Shirley) Waugh, Glenfield; Mrs. Glen (Bertha) Kennedy, Mrs. Fred (Luava) Schwaderer, Mrs. Cecil (Viola) Fowler, and Mrs. Arthur (Bessie) Taylor, all of this village.

Pvt. Schwaderer recently returned with an honorable discharge, served with the Army in the European Theater; and Arthur Taylor is in the Navy. There are 41 nieces and nephews.