Remains of misidentified Marine returning to Tennessee

LEBANON, Tenn. — The body of a U.S. Marine captain killed in World War II is coming home to Tennessee, more than 70 years after a body misidentified as Capt. Glenn Walker was buried there.

Walker was killed in 1943 at age 26 during the Battle of Tarawa, one of more than 1,100 Marines who died during the fight for control of that Pacific island, the Tennessean reported.

Remains of 532 Marines were recovered after the war in 1946, Hattie Johnson, head of the Marine Corps POW/MIA section, told the paper. Walker’s two dog tags were found near remains that reportedly had a dental match for Walker. Those remains and the dog tags were returned to Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1947 and laid to rest at Wilson County Memorial Park at a family plot.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency was given authorization in 2016 to investigate and dig up 94 sets of remains that were never identified and had been buried in Hawaii. Among them was Walker.

Lane Martin, Walker’s nephew who lives in Lebanon, initially thought the voice message from Johnson in March 2020 saying the remains sent to Wilson County weren’t actually his uncle’s was a hoax.

“I think it’s great it’s resolved,” Martin said. “But I also think about my mother and grandmother not knowing.”

“It would never happen today with today’s science,” Johnson said of the misidentification. “I’m happy for service members who are being returned for proper burials and homecomings they so rightly deserve.

“I know his mother went to her grave believing her son was buried next to her. But she was buried next to a serviceman. Now the job is to find out who that service member is.”

Walker graduated from the University of Tennessee and was attending Harvard Law School when he volunteered for the Marine Corps. He had been awarded a Purple Heart at the Battle of Guadalcanal before he was killed.

“He was a true blue hero,” said another nephew, Jimmy McDowell, of Lebanon.

Walker’s final return home was delayed by COVID-19 but his remains are now tentatively scheduled to be delivered to Nashville on July 22, with full military honors conducted at the airport, Johnson said.

The family is planning a memorial service and Martin expects around 70 family members to attend.

“I get emotional when I think of the life he could have had,” Martin said. ”The good is that we’ve reached out to family all over the country and drawn us back together.

“We’re gathering pictures and letters he wrote. We’ll display as much of the artifacts that we can, and we’ll go to the gravesite. But it will be a huge family reunion.”