WASHINGTON — The remains of a Louisiana marine who went missing in action during WWII will be returned to his family.
The U.S. Department of Defense announced that Staff Sgt. Thomas L. Meek of Lisbon, La. was identified and will be buried in the Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. He was 19 when he went missing.
On July 21, 1943, Meek was a crew member of an SBD-4 Dauntless dive-bomber that departed Turtle Bay Airfield on Espiritu Santo Island, New Hebrides, on a night training mission and failed to return. During the training mission, the aircraft was reported as crashed on a coral cliff on nearby Mavea Island.
In September 1947, a U.S. Army Graves Registration Service team investigated the crash on Mavea Island, but recovered no remains. In 2012, a JPAC team excavated the crash site on Mavea Island, Republic of Vanuatu, and recovered the remains of Meek and non-biological evidence amid the aircraft wreckage, which included U.S. and Australian coins dating to 1942 and earlier, U.S. military captain's bars, and a military identification tag that correlates to Meek by name and service number.
Those remains additionally identified co-serviceman Capt. Henry S. White of Kansas, Mo. What was found at the crash site, along with the remains, correlate circumstantially to Meek and White, however, no individual identifications were possible.
There are more than 400,000 American service members that were killed during WWII, and the remains of more than 73,000 were never recovered or identified.