Home News Missing WWII Tarawa Marine returns home for proper burial

Missing WWII Tarawa Marine returns home for proper burial


Pfc. James O. Whitehurst

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, unaccounted for since World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

In November 1943, was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, 2nd 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.

Over several days of intense fighting at Tarawa, approximately 1,000 and Sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded, but the Japanese were virtually annihilated.

died on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, 1943.

Despite the heavy casualties suffered by U.S. forces, military success in the battle of Tarawa was a huge victory for the U.S. military because the Gilbert Islands provided the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet a platform from which to launch assaults on the Marshall and Caroline Islands to advance their Central Pacific Campaign against Japan.

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, but  remains were not recovered.

In June 2015, a nongovernmental organization, History Flight, Inc., notified DPAA that they discovered a burial site on Betio Island and recovered the remains of what they believed were 35 U.S. who fought during the battle in November 1943.

The remains were turned over to DPAA in July 2015. Glover Funeral Home of Dothan has been entrusted with the arrangements.

Graveside funeral service for Corps Private First Class James O. , 20, formerly of Ashford, Alabama, will be held 1:00 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at Cowarts Baptist Church Cemetery, Cowarts, Alabama, with Rev. Homer Davis, Jr., and Rev. Coley M. Holloway officiating and Kendall Glover directing.

He was born January 11, 1923 in Blakely GA, the son of the late Benjamon Earnest and Delilah Grimes . He was preceded in death by a niece, JoAnne Shelley, Ashford, AL, a brother, E.D. , two sisters, Maude Palmer and Odessa Odom. Survivors include: sister-in-law, Doris C. , Cowarts, AL, nephews, Larry (Jan) Palmer, Pansey, AL, Charles Odom, Dothan, AL, Paul Odom, Orlando, FL, nieces, Delilah (Tony) Deese, Dothan, AL, Paula (Frankie) Jackson, Skipperville, AL, Pam (Myer) Holloway, Cowarts, AL.

Please sign the guestbook online at www.gloverfuneral.com.

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  1. To St. Peter he will tell: ‘Another Marine reporting Sir-I’ve served my time in Hell!
    Semper Fi!
    G/2/5. 68-69.

  2. What an honor it was today to be apart of something that spanned from 1943 to the present. A long awaited homecoming for USMC PFC James Otis Whitehurst. The folks in Marianna stopped what they were ding to render honor to this young and his family as the procession came through their town. Dozens of law enforcement officers from at least ten agencies escorted us as well as Patriot Guard Riders from three states. RIP Marine.


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