LEBANON, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Lebanon, Tennessee, World War II veteran will finally return home after being misidentified following the Battle of Tarawa.
U.S. Marine Captain Glenn Walker was among the approximately 1,000 marines and sailors killed. 2,000 others were wounded.
At just 26-years-old Walker, who was also a company commander, was in the prime of his life.
“If he had finished the war as an officer in the marines and come back and completed his law degree – what his life might have been?” contemplated Lane Martin, a nephew of Capt. Walker.
Capt. Walker was a graduate of the University of Tennessee as well as a Harvard Law student when he went to war.
“It was a very bloody battle. It was at the island of Tarawa. It was one of the first major invasions of WWII in the pacific, and it was just a bloodiest is about the best way I know to describe it,” said Martin. “There were 1,100 marines were killed that day storming the beach.”
It was a three day battle that virtually annihilated the Japanese on the island.
At this point the U.S. was in a race against time. “In the chaos and aftermath of the day battle you had over 1,100 marines that were dead there, and they had to with the heat and all on the island, they had to quickly bury those 1,100 men,” Martin said.
After the war in 1946, the Marines attempted to recover those buried but a mix up brought the wrong World War II veteran 6700 miles to the wrong family.
“The retrieving of those bodies in 1946, they found his dog tags, but they associated them with someone else’s body, and they actually shipped that body back here to Lebanon, and that person is currently buried next to my grandparents, and to my mother and father,” Martin said.
In 2015, the DPAA, which is the office charged with finding and identifying missing U.S. service members, identified Capt. Walker’s remains in Hawaii. That’s when the search for the next of kin began.
“I thought it was a hoax,” Martin said. That was his initial reaction when the marines found him to let him know the news decades later.
“How tall is the person that you’ve got the body that you’ve have in Hawaii? and she said ‘he’s 67 and 3 quarter inches tall,'” Martin said. “I’ve been told all my life that he was just as tall as I am that he was about 6’4, and when she told me that it was just like a shiver ran over my body, and I thought that’s him they’ve found my uncle.”
A marine with the rank of Captain is expected to escort Walker’s remains to Lebanon with military honors the week of July 22nd.
A memorial service is planned for July 24th at Fairview Church in Lebanon followed by a burial at the Wilson County Memorial Park Cemetery.
The identity of the other marine remains unknown at this time.