Pennsylvania native Howard T Lurcott, 26, was lost on January 21, 1944 when the B-24J bomber he was piloting crashed into Tarawa lagoon shortly after takeoff. He was stationed at Hawkins Field, Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, and Gilbert Islands with his crew, who was also in the bomber. Resuce crews, however, only recovered the remains of five individuals. Lurcott was not among them.
The remains, three identified and two unidentified, were reportedly placed in Cemetery No. 33 on Betio Island, one of several cemeteries established after the U.S. seized the island from the Japanese.
In 2017, History Flight Inc, a non-profit organization who partnered with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) uncovered a series of coffin burials in the Cemetery 33 location. On December 20, 2018, one of Lurcott’s crewmembers were accounted for.
Through dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence, and even mitichondrial DNA, they were able to confirm the remains of U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Howard T. Lurcott.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war.
Currently there are 72,738 service members still unaccounted for from World War II. Lurcott’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl site along with others missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website here