WWII Soldier, Whose Remains Had Been Unidentified for 73 Years, to Return Home to Florida for Burial With Honors

31st May 1945: US Marines of the 1st Division wait on the crest of a hill in southern Okinawa, as they watch phosphorous shells explode over Japanese soldiers dug into the hills / Getty
November 6, 2017

A Japanese mortar shell killed Sgt. Richard Gordon "Tiny" Sowell back in World War II, but only this week, 73 years later, will his remains be returned home to Florida to be buried with full military honors.

Sowell, from West Palm Beach, Fla., died on Saipan in July 1944 at the age of 21 when a Japanese mortar hit his foxhole. His unidentified remains were eventually buried, with honors, in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii in 1949, but they have just been identified this year, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Sowell's parents and siblings have passed away, but a nephew, Lewis Sowell, Jr., had provided DNA samples to the military. Lewis was contacted in 2015 that there was the possibility of a match. In June of this year, the military confirmed there was a perfect match and that "Tiny" had been identified.

Sowell's remains will fly home on a Delta Airlines flight and be greeted at Palm Beach International Airport by a military detail on Wednesday. The casket will be taken to a nearby funeral home, and on Friday, Sowell will be buried at a family plot.

Approximately 71,000 American service members from World War II still have not been positively identified or recovered, the Post noted.

Published under: Florida , Military