Marine from Columbus killed during WWII to be buried with full military honors

Local News

WASHINGTON, DC (WCMH) — The remains of a marine killed during World War II has recently been identified as a man from Columbus. 

According to the Department of Defense, on November 7, 2017, the remains of Marine Corps Pfc. Harold V. Thomas, of Columbus were identified. 

Thomas, 21, was killed during the battle of Tarawa in World War II. 

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.

Thomas died on the first day of the battle, 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.

The 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company conducted remains recovery operations on Betio between 1946 and 1947, but Thomas’ remains were not identified.

All of the remains found on Tarawa were sent to the Schofield Barracks Central Identification Laboratory for identification in 1947.  

By 1949, the remains that had not been identified were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

Last year, two of Thomas’s relatives submitted DNA samples to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which matched the samples with the fallen Marine’s remains.

Harry Thomas, Jr., a Georgia resident, is Pfc. Thomas’s nephew, and one of the relatives who submitted DNA.

“In spite of my not being able to be in the service, I have done my duty,” Thomas said. “I don’t expect an ounce of thanks or appreciation. I just think it’s something we needed to do.”

To identify Thomas’ remains, scientists from DPAA used laboratory analysis, including dental, anthropological and chest radiograph comparisons, as well as circumstantial evidence.

Thomas’ name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Punchbowl along with the other MIAs from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted

Thomas is scheduled to be buried May 7, in the Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. 

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