WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Marine from Indiana who died during World War II was recently accounted for and will be buried in his hometown.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Marine Corps Pfc. Louis Wiesehan, Jr., 20, of Richmond, Indiana, was accounted for on Sep. 23, 2019.
In November 1943, Wiesehan was a member of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, 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 over 2,000 were wounded, while the Japanese were virtually annihilated.
Wiesehan was killed on the second day of the battle, November 21, 1943. His remains were reportedly buried in Division Cemetery on Betio Island.
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 Wiesehan, and in October 1949, a Board of Review declared him “non-recoverable.”
In 2014, History Flight, Inc., a nonprofit organization, located Cemetery 27. Excavations of the site uncovered multiple sets of remains, which were turned over to DPAA in 2015.
To identify Wiesehan’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
Wiesehan will be buried April 18, 2020, in his hometown.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, over 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,639 service members still unaccounted for from World War II with approximately 30,000 assessed as possibly recoverable.
Video by Patrick J. Hughes: