Michigan resident killed in World War II finally comes home

A solemn ceremony is scheduled for a cemetery in downstate Isabella Township Friday we think our readers should be aware of.

Because that day, the remains of U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Arnold Harrison will be laid to rest with, we understand, full military honors.

Harrison, however, didn’t fall in Afghanistan or Iraq or anywhere else the U.S. presently has troops in the field, actively engaged with the enemy. Harrison died Nov. 20, 1943, on a tiny Pacific atoll in the Gilbert Islands known as Tarawa.

The day he died assaulting a Japanese-held beach also happened to be his 20th birthday.

For readers who aren’t aware, the battle for Tarawa included some of the most savage fighting that would take place in the Pacific Theater of Operations. About 1,000 U.S. personnel were killed in just a couple of days. And virtually all of the nearly 4,700 Japanese troops died in combat that was often hand-to-hand.

A sizable percentage of the Marines who died were buried on Betio island, where the worst of the fighting took place. Military graves registration personnel removed some of the bodies in 1949 — Harrison’s was not known to be among them — and reburied them in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

And that’s where PFC Harrison has been all these years, interred as Tarawa Unknown X-166 until dental, anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis identified him about one year ago.

“We just wanted his remains back home and we are thankful we can finally accomplish that,” John Welnack, second cousin of Harrison, told the Detroit Free Press. “We are very grateful to be able to participate in laying him to rest.”

We honor Pfc Harrison’s sacrifice and welcome him back home as the hero that he is.