The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Marine Corps Reserve 1st Lt. Justin G. Mills, 25, of Galveston, Texas, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Aug. 19, 2019.
(This identification was initially published Sept. 27, 2019.)
In November 1943, Mills was a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, 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. Mills was killed on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, 1943. His remains were reportedly buried in the Central Division Cemetery, and later to the Lone Palm Cemetery on Betio Island.
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 Mills, and, in October 1949, a Board of Review declared him “non-recoverable.”
In 2014, History Flight, Inc., a nonprofit organization, identified a site correlated with the Central Division Cemetery. Excavations of the site uncovered multiple sets of remains, which were turned over to DPAA in 2015, where they were subsequently accessioned to the DPAA laboratory.
To identify Mills’ remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
DPAA is grateful to the United States Marine Corps for their assistance in this mission. Additionally, 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 72,639 service members still unaccounted for from World War II with approximately 30,000 assessed as possibly recoverable. Mills’ name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, 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.