No One Left Behind
♦ Brother of Rockmart man killed in World War II identified, being returned home to Alabama
A family of a man who was thought to never return back to his native soil after being killed in action during World War II gathered to finalize plans this past weekend with the U.S. Navy in Rockmart.
Jack Slaton was only four years old when his brother was killed, so his memory of his older sibling wasn’t formulated enough to have a clear picture of who he was before he went off to war. That brother was spoken of fondly by parents who wondered what happened to their son, who hoped one day he might come home and be buried in the family plot. Now the Navy is helping make that happen after identifying his remains.
Seaman Second Class Ira Slaton, a native of Sand Mountain in Alabama, was lost during combat in the Pacific in World War II and was buried with a tentative identification on Saipan.
He was killed in action along with 38 others during the invasion of the Northern Mariana Islands on July 24, 1944 on the battleship U.S.S. Colorado, which was shelling the island along with the Cruiser Cleveland and Destroyers Remey and Norman Scott. The ships received return fire from a Japanese shore battery on the island some 3,200 yards away. It was the first of these shells to hit the Colorado that killed Slaton and his fellow sailors.
The Colorado endured 22 hits from Japanese shore guns on that fateful day, but the ship endured and continued fighting through August 3, 1944.
The bodies of those killed were transferred off the ship and buried in individual graves on Saipan, the sister island in the Northern Marianas following the action and invasion.
Slaton’s tale after death didn’t end there. When the war ended, the Navy collected his remains along with thousands of others to bury elsewhere and so he was moved from his resting place with the 4th Marine Division in 1948.
His family did attempt to find him during and after the war, and they received communication in a letter posted from the Department of Defense at the time that records were incomplete and that no specific grave could be identified as Slaton’s.
Some 75 years later and according to the Navy personnel on hand for the Saturday meeting explaining what happened and the next steps, his remains were finally identified through dental and additional testing steps taken at laboratories in Hawaii.
They finally issued their findings that Slaton’s remains were indeed those buried decades before after the Colorado’s action on Tinian on Sept. 24, 2018.
No plans have been concretely made for his specific return to Alabama, but the family does plan for him to be returned to the Albertville area to a family marker placed many years before by his parents after his death.
They expected to gather again to hold formal services later this spring with military honors, keeping a promise that no one is left behind.
Slaton’s identification is part of an ongoing project by the Department of the Defense’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which seeks to return all the remains of 79,000 who were missing or unaccounted for during World War II of the more than 400,000 U.S. men and women who died in the war.
They also seek to find additional warriors from Korea, Vietnam, those lost in Cold War conflicts and in recent years in hotspots around the globe and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since the end of World War II, some 72,000 Americans remain unaccounted for from wartime deaths.
U.S. Navy personnel were on hand to explain what happened to Ira Slaton and go through the process of how he will be returned back home to Alabama after he was lost in combat in 1944.
Left: U.S. Navy Seaman Ira Slaton (center) was lost to war but is coming home to join his brother Bill (left and right) who served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam. Bill Slaton succumbed to lung cancer. Right: Family members looked over mementos from a long lost uncle who died in World War II and listed as missing after he was killed in action, but has now been found and is being returned home to his native Alabama soil. The family gathered in Rockmart for a meeting about the next steps./
This undated Naval training class photo includes Seaman Ira Slaton, who was killed in combat in 1944 during the invasion of the Northern Marianas.