Marine Corps Reserve PFC J. L. Hancock, killed in World War II, will finally be returned to his family and, on August 4, 2021, laid to rest - in American soil - with full military honors (229027745).
Born May 8, 1922, in McLean, Texas, J. L. was the 3rd of five children blessed to the union of William Loss and Ethel Amanda (nee Boyles) Hancock.
J. L. enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserves on February 17, 1942, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and received his boot training at San Diego before being shipped out into the Pacific Theater to face Japanese Imperial Forces.
Following the "Battle of Guadalcanal", the guys enjoyed the sights, scenes and hospitality of New Zealand. There, many received medical treatment for tropical ailments; while some continued to suffer wounds - of all kinds - dealt by their Japanese foes. For J. L., that first bit of R&R in Wellington was spent hospitalized for malaria. He soon received a clean bill of health though, and joined his buddies in their local adventures as they awaited orders for their next campaign.
Private First Class Hancock was with his brothers in Bravo Company, 1st Battalion of the 6th Marines (B-1/6) when they landed on Betio as part of Operation: GALVANIC. The mission of the 2nd Marine Division was to secure the island in order to control the Japanese airstrip in the Tarawa Atoll; thereby preventing the Japanese Imperial forces from getting closer to the United States, and enabling US forces to get closer to mainland Japan. It would become one of the bloodiest battles in the Corps history.
It was November 22, 1943 (D+2 of the "Battle of Tarawa"), young J. L. - just 21 years old - perished. He was reportedly soon buried in Row D of the East Division Cemetery, later renamed Cemetery 33, on Betio Island - a temporary location chosen by his fellow Marines, the survivors of the battle, until the Fallen could be recovered and returned to their families.
Having a loved one away from home during the holidays is always trying; however, having a son or husband off fighting in the war left the whole family on edge. The fact that this battle took place just before Thanksgiving meant that most of the families, who had unknowingly earned their Gold Star, would receive their heart-wrenching telegrams on Christmas Eve – some Christmas Day or even New Years Day.
For his service and sacrifice, J. L.'s parents accepted his awards and decorations, including:
- Purple Heart
- Combat Action Ribbon
- World War II Victory Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation
- Asiatic-Pacific Theater Campaign Medal
- Marine Corp Expeditionary Medal, and
- Gold Star Lapel Button.
Also left to mourn his passing were siblings, Clevy Dolen Hancock, Juanita Ruth "Ada"(Mrs Neal) McBroom, Naomi Walene (Mrs Howard) Chapman and Wanda Faith "Faith" (Mrs James) Thorman.
J. L. HANCOCK REPORTED KILLED IN ACTION
J. L. Hancock, nephew of Mrs. T. A. Yeager, 816 Spring Street, has been killed in action. Mr & Mrs. Yeager this morning were notified of the War Department's message, sent to her brother, W. L. Hancock of McLean, father of the Marine. J. L. Hancock volunteered more than a year ago, saw action in the South Pacific, contracted malaria recovered and was back at the front. Memorial services are being planned at McLean.
Source: The Amarillo Globe (1943-12-23, pg 3)
J. L. HANCOCK IS KILLED
The War Department has notified the parents of Pfc. J. L. Hancock, Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Hancock of McLean, that he has been killed in action in the Battle of Tarawa. J. L. graduated from McLean High School in 1940 and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in February, 1942. J. L. received his boot training at San Diego and later participated in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Mrs. T. A. Yeager, 816 Spring Street, is an aunt of Private Hancock.
Source: Amarillo Daily News (1944-01-25, pg 5)
Despite the heavy casualties suffered by U.S. forces, military success in the battle of Tarawa was a huge victory for the U.S. military because the Gilbert Islands provided the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet a platform from which to launch assaults on the Marshall and Caroline Islands to advance their Central Pacific Campaign against Japan.
In the immediate aftermath of the fighting on Tarawa, U.S. service members who died in the battle were buried in a number of battlefield cemeteries on the island. In 1946 and 1947, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company conducted remains recovery operations on Betio, but PFC Hancock's remains were not recovered. On October 4, 1949, a military review board declared J. L. "non-recoverable".
His family had this memorial marker placed in McLean Cemetery, in McLean, Texas, in hopes that one day J. L. would be found and returned home. His parents would later be laid to rest next to this marker - its empty ground still offering no peace.
Just before Memorial Day weekend 2020, Jennifer Morrison, an independent volunteer forensic genealogist, found the family of PFC Hancock and put them in contact with the Marine Corps POW/MIA Section. This (re)established lines of communication with J. L.'s family regarding the ongoing recovery and repatriation efforts, and offered them the opportunity to provide the Family Reference DNA Sample ultimately necessary for PFC Hancock's identification.
On February 17, 2021, the DPAA officially accounted-for PFC Hancock, and soon after his family received "The Call" from the Marines.
To identify PFC Hancock's remains, scientists from Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
J.L. will soon be returned to his family and laid to rest - in American soil - with full military honors (229027745).
Marine Corps Reserve Private First Class J. L. Hancock is memorialized among the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific's Honolulu Memorial. Although he has finally been recovered and returned to his family, PFC Hancock's name shall remain permanently inscribed within Court 4 of the "Courts of the Missing". A rosette will be placed next to his name, indicating that J. L. has finally been found (56109821, cenotaph).
DPAA Personnel Profile
Marine Corps POW/MIA Section
DPAA Release No: 21-021 (Feb. 24, 2021)
American Battle Monuments Commission
Jennifer Morrison, independent volunteer forensic genealogist
Note from the memorial maintainer:
I am grateful to Chuck Williams & Hattie Johnson (USMC POW/MIA Section) and the DPAA for their efforts in bringing my Marine home. "It takes a village!"
IN MEMORY OF / J L HANCOCK
TEXAS / PFC US MARINE CORPS
WORLD WAR II PH
MAY 8 1922 _ NOV 22 1943
Per FindAGrave guidelines, memorials 229027745 (final resting place, San Antonio TX), 125449451 (cenotaph, McLean TX) & 56109821 (cenotaph, Honolulu) should not be merged.
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