World War II

Remains of SoCal Marine Arrive Home Nearly 77 Years After He Was Killed in World War II

The remains of Private Jacob Cruz, killed in November 1943, were returned to Southern California after they were discovered on a Pacific island in 2019.

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

A Marine from Los Angeles who was killed in November 1943 during combat in World War II was honored Tuesday with a procession as his remains were returned to Southern California.

U.S. Marine Private Jacob Cruz was killed in action Nov. 22, 1943 while he faced battle with Japanese forces on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands.  Cruz died on the third day of a battle that left about 1,000 Marines and sailors dead and more than 2,000 wounded.

He was 18 years old. 

Cruz was reported to be buried on the island in Row D of the East Division Cemetery, later renamed Cemetery 33. In 2019, archaeologists with the nonprofit History Flight located remains and turned them over for identification to the forensic lab at the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. 

One set of the remains were confirmed to be those of Private Cruz.

A flight carrying the remains arrived Tuesday morning at LAX from Hawaii.  They were transported to a mortuary in Montebello in a procession that included veterans and a salute from law enforcement officers.


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Cruz's name is in the Court of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicated he has been found.

Private Cruz served in Company D, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.

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