Fallen soldier’s family: ‘He’s coming home after being lost in the South Pacific’

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – After 76 years, fallen World War II soldier Robert James Hatch is back home.

“It’s exciting having heard of about Uncle Jim our entire lives,” said Thomas Hatch, Hatch’s nephew.

Hatch welcomed his uncle back on Wednesday at the Delta Cargo Terminal at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

Uncle Jim was killed in 1943 during the battle of Tarawa Island.

“His body didn’t make it home because it was declared non-recoverable in 1949,” said Hatch.

It was buried in an unmarked grave and never recovered. That was until this year when Uncle Jim’s remains were identified.

A private group called History Flight used cadaver dogs and ground scanning radar to locate them.

“They were able to find it in March of this year 2019, and following forensic evidence, they declared it his body,” said Hatch. “We were notified in September that they were bringing him home.”

Now in addition to being welcomed home, Uncle Jim will receive the burial his family’s been waiting to give him more than 70 years later.

“They offered Arlington National Cemetery which was a great honor, but we choose to bring him home to Utah where he’ll be buried in the Bountiful Cemetery.”

Uncle Jim will be buried next to his relatives including a brother who also died during World War II.

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