No One Left Be­hind

♦ Brother of Rock­mart man killed in World War II iden­ti­fied, be­ing re­turned home to Alabama

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Kevin Myrick [email protected]­stan­dard­jour­nal.net

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.

/ Kevin Myrick

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.

Con­trib­uted

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./

/ Con­trib­uted

This un­dated Naval train­ing class photo in­cludes Sea­man Ira Sla­ton, who was killed in com­bat in 1944 dur­ing the in­va­sion of the North­ern Mar­i­anas.

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