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Marine killed in WWII returning to Ohio after remains identified

William Brandenburg (DPAA/Released)

Nearly 76 years after he was killed in an intense World War II battle that claimed about 1,000 Maines and sailors, Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. William E. Brandenburg of New Miami returned home Thursday with full military honors.

A somber military procession on the way to his burial will start around 12:40 p.m. Saturday and take a route that includes Main and High streets through Hamilton. The public is encouraged to line the streets in Brandenburg’s honor.

Brandenburg, 17, was fighting the Japanese on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The battle, which lasted several days, killed 1,000 Marines and sailors and wounded more than 2,000. The Japanese “were virtually annihilated,” according to a news release about Brandenburg from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

Brandenburg died on the third day of battle, on Nov. 22, 1943. Born in New Miami on Jan. 3, 1926, he was the son of Robert and Mattie (Rice) Brandenburg. He was preceded in death by his parents and his siblings, but is survived by numerous nieces and nephews, as well as great nieces and great nephews.

His bittersweet homecoming was made possible by modern scientific methods.

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Brandenburg’s unidentified body was buried one of several battlefield cemeteries on the island. His was known as Central Division Cemetery, which later was renamed Cemetery 26. A military operation on Betio between 1946 and 1947 recovered his remains and those of many others, but were unable to identify his body.

Formal Saturday procession through Hamilton

Brandenburg’s body is scheduled to arrive at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport at 3 p.m. Thursday, and there will be military honors there, before a formal procession to the Brown-Dawson-Flick Funeral Home at 1350 Millville Ave.

But because of scheduling delays that could happen with flights and traffic, officials aren’t encouraging people to line the streets for that procession.

They are hoping many people will line the streets Saturday between the funeral home and Hickory Flat Cemetery after his noon funeral service at the funeral home. That procession should start around 12:40 p.m. and take the following route:

From the funeral home at 1350 Millville Ave., the procession will go east on Millville Avenue. It will turn left onto Dick Avenue and then turn right onto Main Street, before continuing onto High Street. It will turn left onto North Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard before turning right onto Jacksonburg Road. The procession then will turn right onto Morganthaller Road and onto the cemetery

How was he identified?

All of the remains were sent to the Schofield Barracks Central Identification Laboratory in 1947 for identification. By 1949, those remains that still were unidentified were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. One group of those bodies was designated as Tarawa Unknown X-074. That set was dug up in October, 2016, for identification.

Scientists from the DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitocondrial DNA analysis, anthropological analysis and “circumstantial and material evidence” to make identifications.

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© 2019 the Dayton Daily News