From Staff Reports
The Picayune Item
Lt. Col. Lourie N. Formby III spoke to Picayune Rotarians at their Tuesday meeting about the life of Charles Wilmon “Billy” Stuart, Jr.
Formby researched and interviewed H Company members who served with Stuart, Jr. to tell the story of the Picayune High School football captain turned Marine, who lost his life in the battle of Invasion of Iwo Volcanic Island.
Formby said, 18-year-old Stuart, Jr. left Picayune for Marine Corps Boot Camp immediately after leading his high school football team to the state championship, in 1943. It was a game that he would have missed, except local politicians and school officials were able to get an extension for him to report until after the game. He trained with other local boys, Fred Henley and Poplarville native Grady Evans.
Stuart, Jr. was assigned to H Company, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division which was made up of 220 Marines. Assigned to the invasion of Iwo Volcanic Island, Stuart Jr. lost his life rescuing a Unit member. He died clutching a Bible from his back pocket.
Formby said approximately 20 Marines survived the invasion that was projected to last three days but lasted 36 days instead.
Originally buried in the 5th Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Volcanic Island on March 9th, 1945, he is now at rest in the family plot in Pine Grove Cemetery.
He was one of seven Pearl River County Veterans to die in the war and one of five that graduated from Picayune High School. On November 11, 1950 the Picayune School Board voted to change the name of Picayune High School to honor those alumni killed in action.
Formby concluded by telling of a Memorial Dedication held on Saturday, March 7, 2009 at Pine Grove Cemetery, for Stuart, Jr. There were a handful of Combat Team 26 Iwo survivors in attendance along with Stuart, Jr.’s best friend and fellow Marine, Fred Henley. Each stood and shared stories of how he had touched their lives in some way.
“Pfc Charles Wilmon Stuart, Jr. was not only faithful to his God, but also to his fellow Marines. As the Marine Corps motto “Semper Fidelis” is a charge for all Marines to follow, so it seems the same with Billy Stuart— always faithful,” said Formby.