Thomas Murphy, pictured here at 22 when he was in the Navy, was killed during World War II in Tarawa. Now, nearly 75 years later, his body is being returned home to Butler County where he will be buried on Memorial Day. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Remains of WWII sailor coming home to Butler County nearly 75 years after his death

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Thomas J. Murphy, who was Navy pharmacist mate assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, was killed by a gunshot wound on Nov. 20, 1943, during Tarawa, a battle in the Pacific Theater. He was 22.

Later, it was discovered that Murphy may be buried in Cemetery 27 on Tarawa, also known as the “Lost Cemetery.”

During a construction project in 2015, Cemetery 27 was discovered underneath a parking lot on Tarawa. Murphy’s body was recovered and his identification was officially announced on Oct. 11, 2017.

Murphy will be brought home to Hamilton to be buried next to his brother, Lester Oliver, and sister-in-law, Juanita Ison Oliver, in Greenwood Cemetery on Memorial Day.

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Murphy saw a lot of action in his 17 months in the service. A ship he was on in the Casablanca landings was torpedoed and sunk in November 1942. He spent several hours in the water before being rescued. He was also in other action in which the ship he was on was either damaged or sunk.

In November 1943, Murphy was assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Fleet Marine Force. They landed, against stiff Japanese resistance, on the small Island of Beto in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, in an attempt to secure the island. He was killed on the first day of battle on Nov. 20, 1943.

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Murphy was the son of Jess and Anna Murphy of Greencastle, Ind.

His remaining relatives are two nieces, Nancy Oliver Huentelman and Chantel Oliver of Fairfield, and two nephews, John Oliver of Hamilton and Jim Oliver of Sedona, Ariz.

A visitation will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. May 27 in the Zettler Funeral Home, 2646 Pleasant Ave.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. May 28 with full military honors at Greenwood Cemetery. The service will be open to the public.

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