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The remains of two Arkansas service members -- one killed in World War II, the other in the Korean War -- have been found and returned home.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the mission of which is to account for the remains of American military members killed in action, matched DNA from the remains of Army Pfc. Robert Mitchell of Searcy and Marine Pfc. Larry Roberts of Damascus to family members.

Mitchell and Roberts -- both teenagers at the time of their deaths -- were among the about 80,000 soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines still unaccounted for from World War II and the Korean War.

Roberts, who in November 1943 was assigned to a group of Marines that landed against heavy Japanese resistance on a small group of Pacific islands known as the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, was one of 1,000 Marines and sailors killed over several days of battle there, according to a news release.

The Defense Department considered the fighting at Tarawa a major U.S. victory despite the heavy casualties.

Most of the those killed at Tarawa were buried shortly after the fighting in battlefield cemeteries on the island, and the military returned to recover their remains several years later. Roberts, however, wasn't found then, and in 1949, the U.S. government declared his remains "non-recoverable," the release said.

Army Pfc. Robert Mitchell of Searcy
Marine Pfc. Larry Roberts of Damascus

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In 2015, History Flight Inc. -- a nonprofit that searches for the remains of slain U.S. service members -- found a burial site on one of Tarawa's small islands called Betio Island. Among the graves were about 35 U.S. Marines.

DNA from one of the sites was matched to Roberts' nephew.

Roberts' remains will be buried Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

His family declined interview requests.

Mitchell's remains were found in South Korea in 1952, but it took some six decades to positively identify them.

The Searcy native was part of an infantry unit that attacked the Korean People's Army near the Pusan Perimeter in September 1950, according to a Defense Department news release.

Mitchell was unaccounted for after the series of attacks, and he was never listed in the Korean People's Army's rosters of prisoners of war.

In 1952, a South Korean man directed U.S. troops to a foxhole where he had buried the remains of a U.S. soldier in September 1950, the release stated.

The remains were unearthed but were unidentifiable at the time. The military named the remains "X-5698" and interred them in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency disinterred "X-5698" in 2014, based on research and tentative name association, the news release said. DNA was matched to Mitchell's sister and nephew.

His remains were returned to Arkansas and buried in Beebe on Saturday.

Attempts to reach Mitchell's sister were unsuccessful.

Metro on 06/08/2017

Print Headline: Remains of 2 vets returned to Arkansas

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