The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jerome B. Morris, 22, of East St. Louis, Illinois, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Sept. 27, 2019.
In November 1943, Morris was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 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. Morris was killed on the third day of the battle, Nov. 22, 1943. His remains were reportedly buried in East Division Cemetery, later renamed Cemetery 33, on Betio Island.
In 1946, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company centralized all of the American remains found on Tarawa at Lone Palm Cemetery for later repatriation; however, almost half of the known casualties were never found. No recovered remains could be associated with Morris, and in October 1949, a Board of Review declared him “non-recoverable.”
In 2009, History Flight, Inc., a nonprofit organization, located Cemetery 33. Excavations of the site over the past 10 years have uncovered multiple sets of remains. In mid-2019, a set of remains later identified to be Morris was recovered and turned over to DPAA for possible identification.
To identify Morris’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as material evidence.
Morris’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Morris will be buried in Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The date has yet to be determined.