Funeral for WWII sailor held nearly 75 years after being killed in action

Funeral for WWII sailor held nearly 75 years after being killed in action
Photo: Family provided
Photo: Family provided

HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - The funeral for an Indiana World War II veteran killed in action is being held Monday morning.

Navy Reserve Pharmacist's Mate 2nd Class Thomas J. Murphy was killed in action Nov. 20, 1943 when he was shot in Tarawa Atoll, a battle in the Pacific Theater in the Gilbert Islands, the military says.

Murphy, a native of Greencastle, Ind. was 22 years old when he died. He was assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.

The sailor's remains made their way home after nearly 75 years May 25.

A funeral service for Murphy is being held at the Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton at 11 a.m. Monday. A public visitation was held Sunday at Zettler Funeral Home.

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.

Murphy's remains will be buried next to his brother, Lester Oliver, and his sister-in-law, Juanita Ison Oliver.

Murphy's niece, Chantel Oliver, said she didn't believe it was real when she got the phone call and said she and the entire family are happy he's home.

Oliver said Murphy's name was never mentioned because it was painful for her father.

Murphy's brothers and sisters in the Navy were involved in the ceremony to bring Murphy home. They carried his remains into the funeral home allowing the Greendale, Ind. native to be laid to rest next to his brother.

Monday's funeral is open to the public.

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