Growing up the third child in a family of seven, there was little to distinguish a young Everett Markway Sr. from his siblings during the difficult years of the Great Depression — a time when families struggled to scratch a living in a meager economy. As World War II erupted and three of the four hardworking sons entered the service, the greatest distinction for Markway would be his decision to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.
"My father went to Immaculate Conception School in Jefferson City and graduated from St. Peter High School in 1936, where he played football," said the veteran's son, Everett Markway Jr. "He attended Jefferson City Junior College for about 18 months before going to work at the post office as a postal clerk."
Markway Sr. soon began dating Lillian Schneiders; however, their budding relationship was placed on hold because of more pressing circumstances. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Markway's younger brother, Ulysses, chose to enlist in the U.S. Navy. Three months later, Markway's voluntary spirit resulted in a similar decision.
"His military records show he enlisted with the Marines at Jefferson Barracks on April 15, 1942, when he was 23 years old," the veteran's son said. "From there, he was sent to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego for his initial training."
After boot camp, he was sent to U.S. Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida, for specialized aviation training. While there, he qualified as an aviation metalsmith and aircraft mechanic. According to the Aug. 1, 1943, edition of the Sunday News and Tribune, he "graduated with the highest averages in his class."
While completing his advanced training in Florida, another of Markway's brothers, Francis, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 and went on to serve with a troop carrier squadron.
Markway's son said, "In early February 1943, my father sailed to Midway Island and joined a Marine SBD (Scout Bomber Douglas) — a carrier-based scout/dive bomber) squadron. The unit had already received a Presidential Unit Citation at Midway in 1942 and later received two Naval Unit Citations in the Philippines in 1945."
Weeks later, the aviation mechanic was transferred to the Marine Corps Air Station Ewa on the island of Oahu. This was but another brief stop in his military journey since he boarded the USS Long Island — an escort carrier — bound for service in American Samoa in late April 1943. He soon joined his fellow Marines in training for battle in addition to ferrying aircraft to crews stationed on various islands in the region.
Assigned to the Marine Scout Bombing Squadron designated VMSB-214, Markway moved to Efate Island in New Hebrides in December 1943, and served with a carpentry and engineering section. The following month, he returned to his aviation mechanic duties and was sent to an airstrip on Bougainville in the North Solomon Islands.
"My father mentioned that while he was in the area, there were isolated Japanese troops found raiding garbage dumps for food, the occasional sniper was discovered and, one time, they even caught a Japanese soldier sneaking into an outdoor movie at night."
The next stopover in his duty assignment brought with it an "incident which changed his life," remarked Markway's son. VMSB-214 was sent to Munda on New Georgia Island in the Central Solomon's near Guadalcanal in July 1944. In this region, Marines were frequently transferred between islands via transport aircraft.
"It is my understanding that my father was scheduled to be on one of the planes and it crashed into a mountain and all aboard were killed," Everett Markway Jr. said. "Instead, he was away from his unit at the time and attached to a field hospital but somehow the records showed he was on that plane."
He added, "When he returned to his unit, all of his gear was stacked outside his tent so that his personal items could be sent back home, but fortunately no telegram had yet been sent to his family."
His official military records note through September 20, 1944, he participated in a major campaign to occupy Munda in the New Georgia Islands. From there, he boarded the USS Harry Taylor — a troop transport — for his return to the states in October 1944. When back in Jefferson City on leave, he and his fiancée, Lillian, were married on Dec. 2, 1944.
"My parents loaded up their 1938 Plymouth and drove to my father's final duty assignment at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida," Everett Markway Jr. said. "He trained airplane mechanics from January through November 1945."
Receiving his discharge Nov. 7, 1945, Markway remained in the Marine Corps Reserves until 1953. After returning to Jefferson City following his active duty service in WWII, the veteran resumed his employment with the postal service and he and his wife went on to raise three sons — Everett Jr., Ronald and Eric.
A member of his local Veterans of Foreign Wars post and the Central Missouri Detachment of the Marine Corps League, Markway passed away Jan. 8, 1979, and was interred in Resurrection Cemetery in Jefferson City with final honors provided by his fellow members of the Marine Corps League.
The perpetuation of Markway's legacy, like many veterans of the WWII era, was impeded due to his hesitancy to share with his children the stories of his military experiences. However, through vague recollections, military histories of several of his contemporaries and documentation, his sons have been able to chronicle much of his time in the service.
"He only mentioned his time in the Marine Corps in passing with us but never shared many details," said Markway Jr., a veteran of the U.S. Army. "I've spent many hours figuring out where he was in the war and expanding the details into a coherent story."
"Our family has an intriguing legacy of military service and it's satisfying to know what he may have gone through while overseas and to be able to share these experiences with others."
Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.