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Remains of MN Marine killed in WWII will finally be buried

Sgt. James Joseph Hubert was killed in 1943.

The remains of a Duluth man who was killed in World War II are finally coming home.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. James Joseph Hubert was killed during the war, but it wasn't until last year his remains were officially identified, a website dedicated to him says.

Now, 79 years after Hubert started his career in the military, he'll return home. Hubert will be buried Saturday at Calvary Cemetery in Duluth – the service is open to the public, his obituary says.

Finding Hubert's remains

Hubert enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve in Duluth in 1938, when he was going into his junior year of high school, before joining the U.S. Marine Corps in 1940. He eventually shipped off to war, and was killed during in the battle of Tarawa in November 1943.

The circumstances of what led to his death aren't really known, the James Joseph Hubert website says, noting documents say 22-year-old Hubert was killed in action on Nov. 21, 1943, apparently from a gunshot wound to his chest and he was "buried in Division Cemetery."

In the years after the war, many service members' remains were recovered from the island, but Hubert's were never found. In 1949, a military review board declared Hubert's remains non-recoverable, according to History Flight, the group that helped find and identify Hubert's remains.

It wasn't until 2015 that remains of 35 marines were discovered at a burial site on the island, and eventually were turned over to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), History Flight says.

Using DNA and dental records, scientists officially identified Hubert's remains. And on Sept. 1, 2016, he was officially accounted for by the DPAA.

The battle of Tarawa was the first time the U.S. faced major opposition from Japan in an amphibious landing, the website says. The battle marked a huge victory for the U.S. in the war, according to History Flight.

He gets an honorary degree

Sgt. Hubert never graduated from high school, but on Thursday he received his diploma.

Denfeld High School in Duluth held a ceremony for Hubert, and presented his family with the diploma and an Honor D – the highest honor given to Denfeld students, Duluth Public Schools said in a Facebook post.

"This is just one small thing we as a district and as a community can do to honor the ultimate sacrifice the family and Sgt. Hubert made for our country," Assistant Superintendent Amy Starzecki said in a statement, according to the post. "We’re privileged and honored to be able to present this diploma."

During the ceremony, Hubert's family was invited to write his name and graduation year in the school bell tower, where thousands of other Denfeld graduates have put their names.

According to History Flight, 16 million Americans served in World War II, with more than 400,000 people dying during the war. Of those, 73,051 service members are still unaccounted for, with History Flight noting that about 26,000 are "assessed as possibly recoverable."

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