BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum has directed all government agencies to fly the United States and North Dakota flags at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, June 10, in observance of the interment of fallen Marine Field Music 1st Class Warren G. Nelson, who fought and died 74 years ago in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency identified the remains of Nelson, who had been unaccounted for since the war, and returned them to his family for burial with full military honors in his hometown of Lakota, N.D.
In November 1943, Nelson was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, which encountered stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Over several days of intense fighting, approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded. Nelson died on the first day of battle on Nov. 20, 1943, according to the accounting agency.
Despite the heavy casualties suffered by U.S. forces, the battle was a huge victory for the U.S. military because of the strategic location of the islands, which served as a platform from which the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet could launch assaults to advance their Central Pacific Campaign against Japan.
A nongovernmental organization, History Flight Inc., notified the agency in June 2015 that they had discovered a burial site on Betio Island and recovered the remains of what they believed were 35 U.S. Marines who fought during the battle in November 1943. The remains were turned over to agency in July 2015.
“The state of North Dakota is proud to bring home Marine Field Music 1st Class Nelson and to honor his life and the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country 74 years ago,” Gov. Doug Burgum said. “We join the community of Lakota in paying tribute to our native son.”