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Press Release | March 5, 2019

Sailor Accounted For From World War II (Morris, J.)

WASHINGTON  –   The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Navy Reserve Aviation Machinist’s Mate 1st Class John O. Morris, 22, of Seattle, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Sept. 13, 2018.

In late 1943, Morris was a member of Carrier Aircraft Service Unit (CASU) 17. In November 1943, American units 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. Following the battle, the majority of units withdrew from the island, leaving only the chaplains and a defense garrison, including a series of U.S. Navy Construction Battalion, Seabee, units. CASU 17 was among those stationed on the island. On Dec. 16, 1943, Morris was killed during the test-firing of a machine gun. The weapon accidentally discharged, killing Morris. He was buried on the island, in Cemetery #33.

In the 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 Morris’ remains were not identified and he was declared non-recoverable.

In 2018, members of History Flight, Inc., a non-profit organization, uncovered a coffin burial in Cemetery #33 on Betio, and transferred the remains to DPAA.

To identify Morris’ remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.

DPAA is grateful to History Flight, Inc., for their partnership in this mission.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,741 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Morris’ name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with the others missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

For family information, contact the Navy Service Casualty office at (800) 443-9298.

Morris will be buried Aug. 1, 2019, in his hometown.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at, find us on social media at or call (703) 699-1420/1169.

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