PFC John Taylor “Jack” Burke

PFC John Taylor “Jack” Burke

Icard, Burke County, North Carolina, USA
Death 21 Nov 1943 (aged 18)
Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, Kiribati
Burial Hickory, Catawba County, North Carolina, USA
Memorial ID 199512386 · View Source
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Marine Corps Reserve Private First Class John Taylor Burke, missing from World War II, was laid to rest on October 26, 2019 at Catawba Memorial Park with full military honors.

Born April 21, 1925 in Icard, North Carolina, John Taylor Burke was the only child blessed to the short union of Lloyd Ernest and Frances Mae (Link) Burke.

"Jack" was raised in Burke and Catawba counties, beginning his education in Hildebran and finally enrolling in Newton-Conover High where he played football. It was during his time as a Red Devil that Jack met his sweetheart, Miss Lorene Davidson, whose friends and family enjoyed calling "Penny".

On August 29, 1942, the 17-year-old took a trip to Raleigh and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. Soon after, Jack found himself on a long train ride west to California where he completed his training in Marine Corps Base San Diego before shipping out into the Pacific Theater. Private First Class Burke enjoyed some R&R in Wellington, New Zealand and awaited orders for his first mission. Always one to write home, Jack sent his love and laughter to all of his family and friends.

PFC Burke was with his brothers in Bravo Company, 1st Battalion of the 8th Marines (B-1-8) 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 21, 1943 (D+1 for the "Battle of Tarawa") when young Jack - just 18 years old - perished.

Having a loved one away from home during the holidays is always trying; however, having a son 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.

Left to mourn his passing where his parents; step parents, Thomas Underwood and Nora (McNeal) Burke; and half-siblings, Vera (Chapman) McNeely, Fred Chapman, Winnifred (Chapman) Spencer, T.G. Underwood, Jr., Jean (Burke) Bloodworth, Darlene (Burke) Ward, Beverly Huff, Ken Burke and step-sister Lucille Drum.

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 Burke’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 as unknowns in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, including one set, designated as Tarawa UNKNOWN X-98.

In December of 2013, Jack’s surviving family was found and put in contact with the Marine Corps POW/MIA Section. Jean and her daughter Jill rallied the family and both his cousin Daniel Burke and nephew Tom McNeely sent in their DNA with prayers that one day Jack would be found.

On January 23, 2017, the DPAA disinterred Tarawa UNKNOWN X-98 from the NMCP for identification.

On May 15, 2019, PFC John Taylor Burke was officially identified and that Memorial Day weekend, Jack's family received the awesome news that he had been found. Scientists from DPAA had used anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis based on Tom’s donation.

On October 24, 2019, Jack was warmly welcomed home by a large and loving family; including one sister, Beverly Huff, and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews, including Tom McNeely (the only surviving relative to’ve known Jack). Two days later, on October 26th, PFC Burke was laid to rest at Catawba Memorial Park in Hickory, North Carolina with full military honors.

Marine Corps PFC John Taylor Burke’s name is permanently inscribed on Court 2 of the "Courts of the Missing" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific's Honolulu Memorial (56108738). A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate Jack is no longer missing.

Jennifer Morrison, volunteer forensic genealogist
DPAA News Release No:
Marine Corps POW/MIA Section
American Battle Monuments Commission

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  • Created by: JSMorrison
  • Added: 27 May 2019
  • Find A Grave Memorial 199512386
  • Lynda Turbeville
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for PFC John Taylor “Jack” Burke (21 Apr 1925–21 Nov 1943), Find A Grave Memorial no. 199512386, citing Catawba Memorial Park, Hickory, Catawba County, North Carolina, USA ; Maintained by JSMorrison (contributor 47978427) Burial Details Unknown.