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Marine Pfc James Francis Mansfield.
Marine Pfc James Francis Mansfield.

Nearly 73 years after 19-year-old Marine Private First Class James Mansfield was killed on a World War II battlefield, a foundation dedicated to finding missing servicemen has discovered his remains and helped return them to his family in Plymouth, officials said.

Mansfield's three surviving siblings, all in their 90s, and his extended family will gather at a Plymouth cemetery Saturday for a private burial service with military honors, Plymouth Director of Veteran Services Roxanne Whitbeck said.

Mansfield and his fellow soldiers — in Company K, Third Battalion, Eighth Marines, Second Marine Division — met heavy resistance in November 1943 when they landed in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, according to a statement from the Department of Defense's POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

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Mansfield died on Nov. 20, 1943, the first day of the intense battle. Over the next couple of days, about 1,000 US Marines and soldiers were also killed.

The majority were buried in several battlefield cemeteries on the island, the statement said. When those remains were recovered in 1946 and 1947, Mansfield's were not among them.

A military review board declared Mansfield's remains non-recoverable in 1949.

But in June 2015, History Flight Inc. notified the POW/MIA Accounting Agency that the group had discovered another burial site on the island and believed it contained the remains of 35 Marines, the statement said.

Scientists from the armed forces used DNA testing, dental analysis, and anthropological comparisons to match the remains with a sample from Mansfield's sister, the statement said.

Mansfield's family still lives in Plymouth.


Dylan McGuinness can be reached at dylan.mcguinness@globe.com.