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Remains of WWII Marine arrive home in Brooklyn, 70 years later

The remains of a Marine from Brooklyn, killed in a pivotal World War II battle with the Japanese, have been returned to his home borough after DNA-testing advances helped the military identify the 20-year-old private.

Joseph C. Carbone, who died in 1943 during the Battle of Tarawa, was matched to a sample provided by his niece, Nancy Lewis, also of Brooklyn, according to the military.

The “dignified transfer of remains,” as the ceremony is known formally, began Friday at about 1 p.m. at Kennedy Airport and lasted about an hour, Staff Sgt. Eric Berger said.

Marines removed the flag-draped coffin from a commercial flight, saluted, and maneuvered the coffin to a hearse to be driven to the Scarpaci Funeral Home in Brooklyn. His funeral will be Saturday at noon at a Brooklyn church, Regina Pacis.

Carbone, from the borough’s Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, was killed on Nov. 20, 1943, the first day of the battle. He was one of about 1,000 Marines and sailors who died and 2,000 wounded over several days of intense fighting.

Carbone was part of a company that had landed on the mid-Pacific island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands against stiff resistance by the Japanese, who were “virtually annihilated,” the military said.

The Marine Corps considers Tarawa a critical victory for the military because the islands helped enable the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet to launch assaults on the Caroline and Marshall islands.

Carbone’s remains — designated Unknown X-206, one of 532 from across Tarawa Atoll — had long been interred in Hawaii at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. A prior attempt to identify the remains in 1947 was unsuccessful.

Then, seven decades later, in October 2016, the military sent the remains to a lab, where mitochondrial DNA was matched with Carbone’s niece’s DNA, along with dental and anthropological records.

Carbone was one of 16 million Americans who served in the war and one of the 400,000 who died. Nearly 75,000 service members from the war are unaccounted for, but about 26,000 of them could be identified some day, the military said.

Nearly three-quarters of a century after his death, Carbone will be memorialized Saturday with a Marine honor guard at Calvary Cemetery in Queens.


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