Marine Corps Reserve PVT Jacob Cruz, 18, killed in World War II, will be returned to his family and, on March 25, 2021, laid to rest - in American soil - with full military honors.
Born March 25, 1925, in Nogales, Arizona, Jacob was the eldest son and 2nd of five children blessed to the union of Isaac and Altagracia "Gracia" (nee Barrientos) Cruz.
Jacob attended Theodore Roosevelt High School, in Los Angeles, California.
Private Cruz was with his brothers in Delta Company, 1st Battalion of the 6th Marines (D-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"), when young Jacob - just 18 years old - perished. He was reported to have been buried in Row D of the East Division Cemetery, later renamed Cemetery 33 - 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 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, Jacob's family accepted his awards and decorations, including:
- Silver Star
- Purple Heart
- Combat Action Ribbon
- World War II Victory Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation
- Asiatic-Pacific Theatre Campaign Medal
- Marine Corp Expeditionary Medal, and
- Gold Star Lapel Button.
Left to mourn his passing were siblings, Esther (Mrs Estelle) LaBry, Olga Villar, Isaac Cruz and Hager "Ruth" (Mrs Manuel) Soto.
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 PVT Cruz’s remains were not recovered. On February 8, 1949, a military review board declared Jacob “non-recoverable”.
On April 14, 2020, Marine Corps Reserve PVT Jacob Cruz was finally accounted for and soon after his family received "The Call" from the Marines. To identify his remains, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis. Additionally, DPAA scientists used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.
Jacob will finally be returned to his family and, on March 25, 2021 (what would've been his 96th birthday), laid to rest with full military honors (209899068).
Marine Corps Reserve Private Jacob Cruz is memorialized among at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific's Honolulu Memorial. Although he has now been recovered and identified, Jacob's name shall remain permanently inscribed on Court 2 of the "Courts of the Missing". A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate Jacob has finally been found.
DPAA Personnel File
Marine Corps POW/MIA Section
DPAA Release No: 20-040 (Oct. 2, 2020)
American Battle Monuments Commission
Jennifer Morrison, independent volunteer forensic genealogist
PRIVATE • USMC • CALIFORNIA
Gravesite Details Jacob's rosette verifies he has finally been found.
Per FindAGrave guidelines, memorials 209899068 (final resting place, Los Angeles) & 56128018 (cenotaph, Honolulu) should not be merged.
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