History Flight Achieves Burial In Arlington Cemetery For Long-Lost Second World War Marine

Arlington National Cemetery. <a href=https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27506493>Photo Credit</a>
Arlington National Cemetery. Photo Credit

Thanks to the non-profit Florida-based History Flight Inc., the remains of Private Wilbur Mattern, a Second World War Marine killed during the fighting at Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, were interred at Arlington National Cemetery in November ’16.

Mattern, 23, from Oelwein, Iowa, died November 21, 1943, on the second day of the battle. In 1949, he was declared unaccounted for by a military review board since he was last seen drifting out to sea.  He was presumed to have been lost at sea.

Kristen Duus, a spokeswoman for the POW/MIA Accounting Agency in the Department of Defense in Arlington, Virginia, said those killed in the battle were buried in a number of cemeteries on the island.  Many were found and returned home for burial.

Mattern’s nephew, James Mattern, of Sun City, Arizona, said receiving the news from the military of the recovery his remains came as a surprise.  After a lengthy history of assuming he floated out to sea, it’s similar to closure.

On Monday, his sons accompanied him to Washington to attend the funeral, The Des Moines Register reported.

History Flight found a burial location on Betio in June 2015 and recovered the remains of 35 Marines.  Various pieces of evidence and dental records assisted in identifying Mattern’s remains.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE