PFC Robert Leroy Zehetner

Photo added by JSMorrison

PFC Robert Leroy Zehetner

Windom, Cottonwood County, Minnesota, USA
Death 20 Nov 1943 (aged 19)
Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, Kiribati
Burial Bushnell, Sumter County, Florida, USA
Plot SECTION 321 | SITE 65
Memorial ID 194709017 · View Source
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Marine Corps Reserve Private First Class Robert Leroy Zehetner, 19, of Brooksville, Florida, accounted for on July 3, 2018, will be buried November 30 at 11 am at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida.

The oldest of 4 children born to Roy Fred and Irene Odell (Oslund) Zehetner, Robert attended Pasco High School until he joined the service December 16, 1941 in Orlando, Florida.

In November 1943, PFC Zehetner was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, in an attempt to secure the island. Over several days of intense fighting at Tarawa, approximately 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded, but the Japanese were virtually annihilated.

It was November 20, 1943 (D-Day for the Battle of Tarawa), when young Robert - just 19 years old - perished.

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. The 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company conducted remains recovery operations on Betio between 1946 and 1947, but Zehetner’s remains were not identified. All of the remains found on Tarawa were sent to the Schofield Barracks Central Identification Laboratory for identification in 1947. By 1949, the remains that had not been identified were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

On Feb. 27, 2017, DPAA disinterred Tarawa Unknown X-79 from the NMCP and sent the remains to the laboratory for analysis.

To identify Zehetner’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) analysis, dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.

Robert received a Purple Heart Medal for wounds he received in action against the enemy on November 20, 1943 on Tarawa. He also received a Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.

His father, Roy passed away in 1985, his mother, Irene passed away in 1989, brother, Tommy passed away in 1998 and his sister, Lois Snyder passed away in 2016. Robert is survived by his sister: Janan Smith; and several nieces and nephews.

DPAA is appreciative to the Department of Veterans Affairs for their partnership in this mission

Zehetner’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl (56136302, cenotaph), along with the others who are missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Marine Corps POW/MIA Office
DPAA Release No: 18-193

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  • Created by: JSMorrison
  • Added: 13 Nov 2018
  • Find A Grave Memorial 194709017
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for PFC Robert Leroy Zehetner (2 Jul 1924–20 Nov 1943), Find A Grave Memorial no. 194709017, citing Florida National Cemetery, Bushnell, Sumter County, Florida, USA ; Maintained by JSMorrison (contributor 47978427) .