Colorado World War II Marine recovered after 77 years

Local News

Sgt. Donald D. Stoddard, Jan. 5, 1922 — Nov. 22, 1943. Courtesy: DPAA

BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — A Colorado marine will finally be laid to rest after being missing in action for nearly 77 years.

Marine Corps Sgt. Donald D. Stoddard of Boulder was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force. In Nov. of 1943, Sgt. Stoddard and his company landed on the island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. The company was met with extreme Japanese resistance.

Many days of vigorous fighting led to the deaths of around 1,000 marines and sailors, with more than 2,000 wounded. It is believed Sgt. Stoddard died on the third day of battle at Tarawa on Nov. 22. He was reported to be buried in Row “D” of Cemetery 33.

In 1946, after attempting “repatriation” for American remains found at Tarawa, a Board of Review declared Sgt. Stoddard “non-recoverable” when they couldn’t find any remains associated with him. Almost half of the known casualties at Tarawa were never recovered.

In 2019, Sgt. Stoddard’s luck changed. History Flight, a nonprofit organization, found a burial site on Betio Island. Excavations of the site led to the discovery of Row “D.” The remains found at the site were transferred to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Hawaii.

Scientists at DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System analyzed Sgt. Stoddard’s remains using dental, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA analysis. Sgt. Stoddard was finally found.

Sgt. Stoddard’s name has been added to the “Courts of the Missing” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. A rosette will be placed next to his name indicating he is accounted for.

Sgt. Stoddard was buried on June 26 of this year in his hometown of Boulder, Co. at Mountain View Memorial Park.

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