Jason Rother

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Jason Rother
Born (1969-07-16)July 16, 1969
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Died August 31, 1988(1988-08-31) (aged 19)
Mojave desert
Place of burial Fort Snelling National Cemetery
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch USMC logo.svg  United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1987-1988
Rank USMC-E3.svg
Lance Corporal
Unit 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division

Jason Rother (July 16, 1969 – August 31, 1988) was a 19 year-old United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal who was abandoned in the harsh Mojave desert during a training exercise and died from dehydration and exposure. His death is now commonly used as a lesson taught to members of the military about the importance of accountability and responsibility.


Rother was assigned to Kilo Company, Third Battalion, Second Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division (K 3/2) based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. In August 1988 the unit was sent to the massive Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms for desert warfare training in the Mojave desert. 1stLt Allen Lawson, a native of Flint, Michigan, was assigned the task of posting road guards on the night of August 30, 1988 along the route of a battalion night movement exercise. Lawson disobeyed an order to place road guards in pairs, got lost, forgot where he had placed LCpl Rother, and upon the completion of the exercise failed to note that Rother was missing, as did two sergeants responsible for LCpl Rother, Sgts Thomas Turnell and Christopher Clyde. It was over 40 hours before anyone in the battalion knew, or said, that Rother was missing. Several searches were launched with over 1,000 Marines on foot, helicopters, and thermal imaging gear. Rother was not carrying a map or compass and had very little water. He weighed only 135 lbs. The first search discovered he had left behind some of his gear and made an arrow out of stones where he had originally been dropped off. That search, and several others, however failed to locate him. LCpl Rother's remains would not be found until December 4, 1988. All that was left were his skeletal remains. It was estimated that Rother died less than 24 hours before the first search was launched and that the temperature on the day he died had reached 107 degrees Fahrenheit. He had hiked over 17 miles and was only two miles from the base.


The Marine Corps commandant, General Al Gray, was highly displeased with an initial report that he thought was largely a cover up by the battalion. [1] He ordered an outside investigation which resulted in the courts-martial of 1stLt Lawson, Sgt Turnell, and Sgt Clyde. It was revealed that Lt Lawson had four convictions for driving while intoxicated and had previously tried to resign his commission, but was denied. It was not however known if Lawson's problems with alcohol contributed to this situation. During the trial several Marines stated they had objected to Lawson's decision to place road guards without partners, but he overruled them as he was senior in rank.

Lawson was found guilty of dereliction of duty and sentenced to discharge and four months confinement in the brig. Sgts Turnell and Clyde were both found guilty and were demoted to LCpl, thus ending their Marine Corps careers. Additionally, the battalion commander, LtCol Robeson, and executive officer, Maj Holm, were both relieved of their duties. Robeson would die less than two years later in an accident on his North Carolina farm. [2]

Present Day[edit]

Lance Corporal Rother is buried in the Fort Snelling National Cemetery in his hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. [3]

The death of LCpl Rother is now one that is familiar to many in the Marine Corps as it is often taught as a lesson of warning on the importance of accountability. There are no markers to indicate where LCpl Rother was placed by Lt Lawson, nor a memorial marker for where his remains were found.

The whereabouts of Lawson, Turnell, and Clyde are unknown.

See also[edit]