Missing High Plains World War II Marine accounted for over 75 years later

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MCCLEAN, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – A High Plains Marine considered missing since World War II has been accounted for, recognized by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) after over 75 years.

Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. J.L. Hancock, 21, of McLean, Texas, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Feb. 17, 2021, according to the DPAA.

Hancock’s story, according to the DPAA:

In November of 1943, Hancock was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th 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, while the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Hancock died on the third day of battle, Nov. 22, 1943. He was reported to have been buried in Row D of the East Division Cemetery, later renamed Cemetery 33.

In 1946, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company centralized all of the American remains found on Tarawa at Lone Palm Cemetery for later repatriation. However, almost half of the known casualties were never found. No recovered remains could be associated with Hancock, and, in October 1949, a Board of Review declared him “non-recoverable.”

In 2009, History Flight, Inc., a nonprofit organization, discovered a burial site on Betio Island believed to be Cemetery 33, which has been the site of numerous excavations ever since. In March 2019, excavations west of Cemetery 33 revealed a previously undiscovered burial site that has since been identified as Row D. The remains recovered at this site were transferred to the DPAA Laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Hancock’s personnel profile can be found here.

The DPAA said that dental and anthropological analysis, as well as mitochondrial DNA analysis and “circumstantial and material evidence” were used to identify Hancock’s remains.

Hancock’s name, reported by the DPAA, is still recorded in the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Hancock is expected to be buried on Aug. 4 in San Antonio. Family and funeral information can be gathered from the Marine Corps Casualty Office at 800-847-1597.

More information on the DPAA and its efforts can be found here.

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