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PFC Norman Alfred Buan, U.S. Marine, age 27, of Little Sauk, Minnesota, was killed in action after coming under heavy attack by the Japanese during World War II. He will be laid to rest after 77 years with a private family graveside service at Long Bridge Cemetery in Little Sauk.
Norman was born on June 26, 1916 in Weyburn, Radville, Saskatchewan, Canada to his parents Albert Hjalmer Buan (who died in 1931) and Annie Mabel (Oyen) (Buan) Hackett (who died in 1981). After leaving Canada in 1925, his family moved to the Little Sauk area where they lived, and he was confirmed and a faithful member in the Long Bridge Lutheran Church.
Norman has two brothers, Ellsworth (Mary) Buan and Oliver Buan and two sisters, Edna (Ernest) Boyer and Gladys (Walter) Zuelow. His half-sisters are Grace (Robert) McNeill and Beverly (Lloyd) Thommasen.
He had blue eyes and light brown hair and was 71 ½ inches tall and 175 lbs. Norman became a U. S. citizen so he could join the Marines and help his country which was under attack. His service # is: 419881. PFC Buan became a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, in the Pacific Theater of World War II and held the rank of Private First Class.
The last few weeks of his life were spent preparing for his first assault landing – Operation GALVANIC, known to history as the Battle of Tarawa. On 20 November 1943, the first day of the Battle of Tarawa the Marines landed against the heavy Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, in an attempt to secure the island.
Norman was reported killed in action during the Second Marine Division’s invasion. It was the first day of his first big fight. His battalion was hit hard during the landing on Red Beach 2. He was reported missing and ultimately declared dead on November 22, 1943. He was 27 years old. His status was listed as Killed in Action-Body Not Recovered. Norman’s mother received a telegram on Christmas Eve 1943 that read:
"Deeply regret to inform you that your son Private First-Class Norman A. Buan, USMCR was killed in action in the performance of his duty and in the service of his country. Present situation necessitates interment temporarily in the locality where death occurred, and you will be notified accordingly. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy. T. Holcomb, Lieut General USMC, The Commandant U. S. Marine Corps."
By the end of November 23, 1943, the 2nd MARDIV suffered 1021 losses and more than 2000 wounded. Norman’s body was carried to a burial trench close to Beach Red #2. The location would later be known as “Cemetery 26” to the troops who exhumed the remains; try as they might, they were unable to identify PFC Buan at that time.
Services were held for Norman at Long Bridge Lutheran Church (f/k/a Little Sauk Lutheran Church), Little Sauk, Minnesota in January 1944 and was attended by hundreds.
In May 2014, excavations by History Flight, Inc of Cemetery 26 uncovered multiple sets of remains. These remains were turned over to the DPAA and transported to the DPAA facilities in Hawaii. DNA samples were obtained and matched from Norman’s half-sibling Grace McNeill and niece Dianne Zuelow-Giffen. These remains will be returned to family and placed in the Long Bridge Cemetery beside his parents and brother, Oliver Buan.
Norman’s known medals include Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Marksmanship Badge, World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Theatre Campaign Medal, Marine Corp Expeditionary Medal, and Gold Star Lapel Button.