Sergeant Willis Clifford Abernathy

As any good southerner would, Willis Abernathy lied about his age in order to join the United States Marine Corps during World War II. Those lies left him wounded at Iwo Jima, and brought him home with a Purple Heart. As a civilian, he taught at a flight school in California before he took to the sky, permanently, on June 30th, 1995, landing at the San Francisco National Cemetery. One final touchdown, alpha bravo.


2 thoughts on “Sergeant Willis Clifford Abernathy

  1. While researching my grandfathers WWII record, I stumbled across this. Is there more to the article? Who wrote it and why? Did you know him? You seem to have at least as much info on him as I do. I think the reason I’m having such a hard time is because he lied about his age to get into the USMC. They have little or no record of his service, even though he was one of the few who survived Iwo Jima and Mt. Suribachi. Please let me know how you got this information, and share anything else you know about him. Thanks!

    1. Unfortunately, I did not know your grandfather. I’m an archivist and historian at the GGNRA (although this blog is in no way affiliated with the NPS or the GGNRA and is not responsible for its content), and as a side project I’ve been researching veterans who are buried in the National Cemetery at the Presidio of San Francisco under the auspices that everyone resting there is someone’s son, spouse or brother and as such deserve to have their stories told however brief they may be; this is how I came across your grandfather.

      I found the information through simple online searches which led me to Find A Grave and other genealogy sites. Most of my research on account of my job relates to the U.S. Army so I’m unfamiliar with avenues for researching former USMCers. Below is all the intel I could dig up with associated links. Thanks for reading, and good luck with your search!

      Abernathy, Willis Clifford, Sergeant (Section H, Grave CA-247-F)

      Abernathy was born to Silas C. and Lena Victoria (Collins) Abernathy on 30 August 1919 in Atlanta, Georgia. Silas was born on 22 October 1891 in North Carolina, and died on 8 May 1954 in Atlanta. Lena was born on 17 November 1897 in North Carolina, and died on 13 June 1971 in Atlanta. (Accessed 2/28/2013)

      Willis lied about his age to join the Marine Corps during World War II, and became a paratrooper. Injured at Iwo Jima, he was awarded the Purple Heart and went on to teach at a flight school in California. He was first married to Wanda Smith. His second marriage was to Mable Matthews in 1974, with whom he was with at the time of his death on 30 June 1995 in Anderson, California. (Accessed 2/28/2013)

      Mabel Anna Gembella Abernathy was born on 16 January 1918 to August T. and Mabel Alice (Richards Morris) Gambella in Oregon. She was first married to Frank William Mathews, how died in 1965. She died on 21 December 1996 in Shasta County, California and was buried in the Anderson District Cemetery. (Accessed 2/28/2013)

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