The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Marine Corps Reserve 2nd Lt. Ernest A. Matthews, Jr., 34, of Dallas, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Dec. 2, 2016.
(This release was initially published Jan. 7, 2017.)
In November 1943, Matthews was assigned to Headquarters Company, Headquarters Battalion, Division Special Troops, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, in an attempt to secure the island. Over several days of intense fighting at Tarawa, approximately 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded, while the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Matthews died on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943. His remains were reportedly buried in Cemetery 33.
In 1946, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company centralized all of the American remains found on Tarawa to Lone Palm Cemetery for later repatriation; however, almost half of the known casualties were never found. No recovered remains could be associated with Matthews, and in October 1949, a Board of Review declared him “non-recoverable.”
In June 2015, History Flight, Inc., a nonprofit organization, unearthed multiple sets of remains who had been buried on Betio. The remains were turned over to DPAA.
To identify Matthews’ remains, scientists from DPAA used dental, anthropological, and chest radiograph comparison analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.
DPAA is appreciative to History Flight, Inc., for their partnership in this mission.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,650 service members still unaccounted for from World War II with approximately 30,000 assessed as possibly recoverable. Matthews’ name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, along with the others killed or lost in WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
For family information, contact the Marine Corps Service Casualty office at (800) 847-1597.
Matthews will be buried Nov. 5, 2019, in San Antonio.