Remains of World War II Marine coming home 70 years after they disappeared
Central Indiana family thrilled at recovery
Last Updated: 114 days ago
NASHVILLE, IN - A family which never gave up hope for the proper burial of a lost loved one will be rewarded next week.
The remains of Marine PFC Manley Forrest Winkley are coming home seven decades after he died in the service of his country, and his family couldn't be prouder.
Winkley grew up in Indianapolis. He enlisted in the Marines after Pearl Harbor and fought in the Pacific.
Winkley was killed by a bullet to the neck in 1943 in the battle for Tarawa, one of the bloodiest of the war.
According to a chaplain's records, he was initially buried right next to the island's airfield, but that's where things got murky.
"Three days later when the battle was complete and the Americans had won the island, the Seabees needed to come in and extend the airstrip. And at that time then the bodies were moved and not always marked correctly," Linda Wright Welty, Winkley's great-niece, said.
At that point authorities lost track of him.
Welty, a Nashville resident, and Sharon Fitzgerald of Bloomington are Winkley's great-nieces.
Fitzgerald's father enlisted in the Marines in Winkley's honor after his death.
The women said the family believed his remains had been moved to a mass grave at Pearl Harbor, but that was never confirmed.
Although Welty and Fitzgerald aren't old enough to have known Winkley, they said the family never forgot him or their love for him.
They were shocked when the Marines told them his remains had been discovered on Tarawa by an island resident and identified through dental records.
"At first it was you're just like shocked. You're just like, 'Wow!' And then things start coming in place about our parents and how close they all were," Fitzgerald said.
"We're very, very pleased,” Welty said. “We're so excited and proud of our government for not giving up. We're the only country that continues to look for our fallen soldiers."
The Winkleys call this a story of hope and believe it will encourage other families whose loved ones' remains have never been recovered that someday, it could happen for them, too.
Winkley's body will be returned to Indiana next week and interred at a military cemetery in Madison.
Follow Norman Cox on Twitter: @normancox6
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