Indiana World War II serviceman's remains found on Pacific Island

Posted at 12:04 PM, May 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 12:12:41-04

GREENCASTLE, Ind. -- The remains of a World War II serviceman from Putnam County, Indiana were found on an island in the Pacific Ocean.

Navy Reserve Pharmacist's Mate 2nd Class Thomas J. Murphy, 22, of Greencastle, died on the small island of Betio, which is located in the Tarawa atoll southwest of Hawaii. He was one of about 1,000 Marines and Sailors who were killed in the fighting in the Tarawa atoll. Murphy was killed on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, 1943. 

Despite the heavy casualties on the United States' side, the battle was actually a victory for the Allies. It gave the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet a platform to launch assaults against Japan, according to a release from the Department of Defense.

Many U.S. servicemen who died in the fighting in the Tarawa atoll were buried on the island. Murphy's remains were not found when recovery operations were conducted in the years after the war.

But in June 2015, History Flight, Inc., a nongovernmental organization, found a burial site with 35 U.S. Marines on the island. 

Scientists from DPAA (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) used dental and anthropological analysis to link one set of remains to Murphy.

His remains are being returned to his family in Hamilton, Ohio. Murphy will be buried May 28, with full military honors. 

According to the DPAA, there are still about 73,000 Americans still unaccounted for from World War II.

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