Remains of Indiana Marine killed during World War II identified

Leonard Tyma

The remains of a Hoosier serviceman who died in World War II have been identified more than 70 years after his death.

Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Leonard A. Tyma, 21, was born in Dyer, Indiana. He was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force in November 1943. He and his fellow servicemen encountered stiff Japanese resistance on the island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands.

Over several days of intense fighting to secure the island, approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed. Another 2,000 were wounded while the Japanese force was virtually wiped out.

Tyma died during the first waves of the assault on Nov. 20, 1943.

In the immediate aftermath of the battle—a significant U.S. military victory that gave the U.S Navy Pacific Fleet a foothold from which to launch assaults and advance the Pacific Campaign—the remains of U.S. service members who died were buried in several battlefield cemeteries.

Between 1946 and 1947, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company conducted remains recovery operations on Betio. Tyma’s remains were not among those identified. The unidentified remains were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP) in Honolulu.

In 2009, History Flight, Inc. and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency began identifying the remains of the unidentified service members.

Tyma’s remains were accounted for on Aug. 6 using dental, radiological and chest radiograph comparison analysis.

Nearly 73,000 service members remain unaccounted for from World War II.