On 13 July 2009, Lieutenant Woodie Lackland McVay Jr., U.S. Naval Reserve, was laid to rest next to his parents in the Pine Crest Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama. In attendance were his wife—the former Annie Ruth Heidelburg—and his granddaughter—Elizabeth Huff. This event would not be considered out of the ordinary—except for the fact that Lieutenant McVay’s funeral was held 65 years after he went missing in the Mariana Islands in February 1944.
By early 1944, the campaign in the Central Pacific under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander-in-chief, Pacific Fleet, was well under way. In the Gilbert Islands, the 2d Marine Division had taken Tarawa in November 1943 after three days of terrible fighting and unforeseen obstacles. As bloody as Tarawa was, it originally had been billed as a rehearsal for the main event, the seizing of the Marshall Islands.