MARION, Ind. (WISH/AP) — An Indiana Marine who died in World War II is back home after his family thought he was unrecoverable.
According to Grissom Air Force Base, for a generation, Marine Pvt. Fred Freet was only known by his photo. The 18-year-old died in a battle on a small Japanese island — Betio in the Gilbert Islands, now known as Kiribati — during a wave of assaults Nov. 20, 1943. He was declared unrecoverable until August, when his remains were identified. Without his remains, Freet was officially declared killed in action in 1949.
Freet’s remains were among those found on Betio in 2015 by History Flight, a nonprofit that searches for servicemen and women who are missing in action. He was identified in August using dental records and by matching DNA with his surviving relatives.
The remains were returned Thursday and received military honors during his homecoming and a funeral at the Marion National Cemetery. Following a traditional 21-gun salute, Marines moved the flag from the casket, carefully folding it before presenting it to Freet’s half-brother.
Freet was also posthumously given the Purple Heart, a U.S. military awarded in the name of the president to those wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917.