Ferris Leon Wharton was born on May 8, 1915 in Ocean View, Delaware. He was the son of Ferris Bringhurst Wharton and Mary Ellen Wharton (née Gray). Wharton had an older sister and a younger brother. He spent his early childhood living in Ocean View and then Lewes, but by 1930 the family had moved to Kells Avenue in Newark. (Census records indicate they initially lived at 128 and later 124 Kells Avenue.)
Wharton graduated from Newark High School in 1934 and from the University of Delaware in 1939. While in college, he married Dorothy Eleanor West in Elkton, Maryland on August 17, 1936. Both became schoolteachers after they graduated: Dorothy in Newport and Ferris as physical education teacher at the Park School in Baltimore, Maryland. Perhaps because of his wife’s job, he apparently split his time between Baltimore and his parents’ home in Newark.
Wharton volunteered for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on May 23, 1942 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He went on active duty on Sept. 8, 1942 in Quantico, Virginia, where he began officer training. Wharton was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on Nov. 14, 1942. On Feb. 3, 1943, 2nd Lieutenant Wharton joined the 2nd Antitank Battalion at Camp Elliott in San Diego, California. They shipped out from San Diego on Feb. 20, 1943. The battalion disembarked in New Zealand and spent the next six months training. On Oct. 30, 1943, Wharton learned of his promotion to 1st lieutenant.
The 2nd Antitank Battalion was disbanded in December 1943 without seeing combat. Lieutenant Wharton transferred to the 21st Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division. He joined the Regimental Weapons Company on Guadalcanal on Jan. 11, 1944. Lt. Wharton commanded a platoon of four halftracks, each armed with a 75 mm cannon.
On May 23, 1944, Lt. Wharton and his men shipped out for the Mariana Islands. Wharton’s unit was part of a force slated to recapture Guam, a U.S. territory that had been under Japanese occupation since December 10, 1941. The invasion of Guam began July 21, 1944. On the first day of the invasion, the 21st Marines landed near Asan.
In a November 24, 1944 letter to Dorothy Wharton, Sgt. Charles H. Schweitzer, Jr. wrote: “When we landed we were under mortar fire and we had to stay close to the beach to do our job. Ever[y] once in a while he’d say ‘It’s getting a little warm here isn’t it[?’] He always had a joke or a smile no matter how tough the going was.”
Not long after, 1st Lt. Wharton and his platoon moved inland. They soon came under fire again. Wharton was struck in the back by multiple shell fragments. Sgt. Schweitzer and a corpsman rushed to his aid, but it was too late.
1st Lt. Wharton was initially buried at the 21st Marines Cemetery on Guam on July 22, 1944. Guam was secured on August 10, 1944. Shortly thereafter, Wharton was reburied at the Army, Navy, and Marine Cemetery No. 3 on Guam on August 28, 1944.