Marine Missing From World War II Accounted For

Marine Missing From World War II Accounted For

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.

Marine Corps Pfc.Wilbur C. Mattern, 23, of Oelwein, Iowa, will be buried Nov. 21, in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. In November 1943, Mattern was assigned to Company M, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 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. Over several days of intense fighting at Tarawa, approximately 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded, but the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Mattern died on the second day of the battle, Nov. 21, 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 Mattern’s remains were not recovered. On Feb. 28, 1949, a military review board declared Mattern’s remains non-recoverable.

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. Marines who fought during the battle in November 1943. The remains were turned over to DPAA in July 2015.

To identify Mattern’s remains, scientists from DPAA used laboratory analysis, including dental comparison, which matched Mattern’s records, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.

DPAA is appreciative to History Flight, Inc. and their partnership for this recovery mission.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war.

Story Originally published HERE.

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Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or submit your own story!


  • Victor H Lackey

    Take me off your mailing list !! as I was reading about your business,being sold and I will not buy from you. the new people who took over don’t seem to care for the Marines, who were buying from Sgt Grit ? My name is Victor H Lackey Sgt USMC Jan 1966 to Jan 1970 Thank you

  • Robert Bliss

    AS usual I’m a week or so late and behind the curve but upon reading Mr. Mumford’s comments I checked out the MCA&F store because I was curious and I am considering a Corps flag and I don’t want one made in China. The MCA&F store has flags cheaper than Grit and made in the USA. That sold me on moving on to a different store. The newsletter……well I agree with Robert T. on bringing back Gunny Rousseau, my Drill Instructor DDick and all the rest.

  • Cpl. Utech

    Now I discover we loyal viewer’s are screwed AGAIN! WTH happened to the newsletter’s photo magnification capability?! Previously, whenever we clicked-on-a-flic, it enlarged for better viewing!…..ESPECIALLY needed by we Old Corps Marines! Is it possible to screw us even more?!

  • Nick Del Bueno

    Reply to Robert T.


    Semper Fi!

  • Russ Grayson

    It wasn’t uncommon in the 1930s-40s: Sergeant Basilone also spent three years in the Army before enlisting in the Marines.

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