HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - The remains of a World War II sailor are returning home nearly 75 years after he was killed in battle for a Memorial Day burial.
Thomas J. Murphy was a Navy pharmacist mate assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, when he was fatally shot Nov. 20, 1943, during Tarawa, a battle in the Pacific Theater, according to the military.
The 22-year-old Greendale, Indiana native already had seen a lot of action during his 17 months in the service, including being on a torpedoed ship in Casablanca in November of 1942, Zettler Funeral Home wrote in his online obituary.
He was in the water several hours before being rescued and would be re-assigned many times as he worked around the world.
His remains from the war in the Pacific theater would remain unaccounted for and hidden, however, for another 74 years.
Due to the mass casualties at Tarawa during heavy battle, hasty mass graves were made, and then later moved around and assigned numbers.
With so many deaths, it became difficult to keep track. It was not until a construction project in Tarawa in 2015 that Cemetery 27 was finally discovered underneath a parking lot, and Murphy's remains along with it.
He was recovered and his identification was officially announced on Oct. 11, 2017.
His remains will be brought to Hamilton to be buried next to his brother, Lester Oliver, and sister-in-law, Juanita Ison Oliver, in Greenwood Cemetery on Memorial Day Monday.
Murphy's parents and siblings are deceased, but he has four surviving nieces and nephews: Nancy Oliver Huentelman and Chantel Oliver of Fairfield; John Oliver of Hamilton and Jim Oliver of Sedona, Arizona.
They will be on hand when his remains are flown into Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport just before noon on Friday.
"We are very grateful to give him his honors, even if it is 75 years later. It's just very bittersweet that his father is not here to see his brother get this honor," said Chantel Oliver.
The military also will have a full contingent at CVG that will include six pallbearers and an admiral, according to the funeral home.
Local law enforcement including the Butler County Sheriff's Office will assist in a funeral procession from the airport to the funeral home at 2646 Pleasant Ave. in Hamilton.
Visitation will be 2 p.m. to 4:00 p..m at the funeral home Sunday followed by a graveside service with full military honors on Memorial Day that will begin at 11 a.m.
Both the visitation and graveside service are open to the public.