The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, recently accounted-for from World War II, are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Marine Corps Cpl. John V. McNichol, 20, of Altoona, Pennsylvania, accounted for on Sept. 25, 2017, will be buried May 14, in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. In November 1943, McNichol was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, 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. McNichol died on the second day of the battle, Nov. 21, 1943.
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 Island, but McNichol’s remains were not recovered. On Oct. 7, 1949, a military review board declared McNichol’s remains non-recoverable.
In July 2017, through a partnership with History Flight, Inc., DPAA used advanced investigative techniques to locate further areas believed to contain the remains of men buried on Tarawa. The recovered remains were sent to the laboratory for analysis.
To identify McNichol’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, which matched his records, 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 72,934 service members (approximately 34,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still accounted for from World War II. McNichol’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, along with the others killed or lost in WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
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 www.dpaa.mil, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or call (703) 699-1420/1169.