World War II Marine accounted for 72 years after death

The U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that the remains of a U.S. serviceman unaccounted for since World War II had been identified.

The body of Marine Pfc. James B. Johnson, of Poughkeepsie, New York, will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

In November 1943, Johnson was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, in an attempt to secure the island.

According to the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Johnson died sometime in battle on Nov. 20, 1943.


In the immediate aftermath of the fighting on Tarawa, U.S. service members who died in the battle were buried in a number of battlefield cemeteries on the island. In 1946 and 1947, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company conducted remains recovery operations on Betio Island, but Johnson's remains were not recovered. On Feb. 28, 1949, a military review board declared Johnson's remains non-recoverable.

History Flight Inc., a non-governmental organization dedicated to finding, recovering and repatriating America’s fallen soldiers to American soil, notified DPAA that they discovered a burial site on Betio Island and recovered the remains of what they believed were 35 U.S. Marines who fought during the battle in November 1943.

Johnson's body was included among those remains.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII, 400,000 died during the war.