Body of Marine killed in WWII returns home to West Virginia

Veterans Voices

The final journey home for a Marine killed in the Pacific Theatre during World War II happened over the the last weekend in October 2018.  Private First Class (PFC) Joe Lukie was buried at Highlawn Memorial Cemetery in Oak Hill, WV on Saturday, Oct. 27.

PFC Lukie was from Harvey, WV.  He was 19-years-old when he was killed during the battle of Tarawa.  Around 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed during the intense fighting for the Tarawa Atoll, More than 2,000 others were wounded.  PFC Lukie died on the first day of the battle on Nov. 20, 1943.

Lukie served with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.  He landed on the small island of Betio against stiff Japanese resistance.   Despite the high number of casualties, the battle was a significant victory for the United States.  It allowed the Pacific Fleet to launch attacks on the Marshall and Caroline Islands 

Following the battle, U.S. Service members who died were buried in battlefield cemeteries on the island.  Remains from the island of Betio were recovered in 1946 and 1947.  Those bodies that were not identified were sent to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP) in Honolulu.

On April 3, 2017, Tarawa Unknown X-201 from NMCP was disinterred, analyzed and identified at PFC Lukie.  The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) issued thanks to the Department of Veterans Affairs for their partnership in this mission.

More than 400,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II died during the war.  Of those, there are still 72,787 service members who are still unaccounted for.  

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