After 76 years, WWII veteran William E Brandenburg was finally laid to rest Saturday.

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After 76 years, WWII Marine finally laid to rest

July 29, 2019 - 2:31 pm

By Ben Krimmel

William Edward Brandenburg lied about his age when he enlisted. He was only 16 when he joined the U.S. Marines on Nov. 27, 1942. 

A year later Brandenburg was landing with the 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands against stiff Japanese resistance. After two days and nights of fighting, he was struck by a bullet in the abdomen and died on the third day of the battle on Nov. 22, 1943, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

On Saturday, he finally returned to his native Ohio to be laid to rest at the Hickory Flat Cemetery with full military honors, ending his family's 76-year wait.

In the aftermath of the fighting, of the 1,000 U.S. service members who died on Tarawa were buried in a number of battlefield cemeteries. Despite several recovery operations taking place between 1946 and 1947, Brandenburg’s remains were not identified and remained at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. Bradenburg's remains weren't identified until Sept. 2018. 

PHOTOS: At least 22 servicemen killed in the battle of Tarawa come home

Patricia Moore, a niece of Brandenburg's, told CNN her mother Mae Black would call veterans group after veterans group hoping she could locate his remains. The DNA which confirmed Brandenburg's remains came from Black. However, the news only came after Black passed away in 2013. 

“That’s the bitter part of this,” Moore told WCPO Cincinnati. “She searched for so long. Now, it’s coming to pass and she’s not here. It’s heartbreaking.”

Brandenburg was laid to rest Saturday next to his father and mother.

Despite the heavy casualties suffered in the battle of Tarawa, it was a military success for the U.S. which helped launch assaults on the Marshall and Caroline Islands and advance during the Pacific Campaign.

There are currently over 72,000 service members who are still unaccounted for from the Second World War.

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