Pfc. George Traver was killed in battle 73 years ago. He was one of many casualties in the battle for Tawara, a tiny South Pacific island that Marines invaded in November of 1943. His body, unidentified at the time, was buried in a mass grave that was left on the island, and lost to time.
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That was then. The grave has since been found. Sifting through the remains is a slow process, and when researchers found a bone handled Boy Scout Pocket knife. That led them to Traver. His mother had sent him the knife in 1942, when he enlisted in the Marines.
“We got the report back from the recovery team one of the artifacts that they found on him was a knife,” Traver’s nephew George Traver said.
“The description of it was a 3-inch or a 4-inch knife blade, bone case covering and a Boy Scout emblem on it. So it was almost like he carried something that meant something to him so much and mentioned about being home.”
The Marines fought the Japanese on the atoll for several grueling days. Approximately 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed. More than 2,000 were wounded. Traver is believed to have died on the first day of battle.
The Florida-based group History Flight located the forgotten grave sight, which contained the remains of 35 Marines.
“His mother lived to be 90-years-old and right up until her dying day she was hoping to hear something about George and get him back,” Al Wheeler, one of Traver’s relatives said. “She tried and tried. Never happened.”
So he’s coming home now. 73 years earlier, his first funeral was canceled. When no remains were ever identified, the family chose to remain optimistic and ignore the news of his death. His second funeral is scheduled for August 28.
Until now, his passing has been a footnote on his parents’ tombstone, which reads: “Private First Class George H. Traver 1943, killed in action and buried at Tarawa.”