KANSAS CITY, Kan. — More than 75 years after Nicholas J. Gojmerac was last seen alive dragging a wounded comrade to safety during a World War II battle, his remains are back home in Kansas.
A Marine Corps honor guard was on the tarmac of Kansas City International Airport Tuesday as Gojmerac’s remains were returned to his family, the Kansas City Star reported. His remains are now at Leavenworth National Cemetery.
Gojmerac was in the Marine Corps Reserve when he was wounded during a battle on the Solomon Islands in 1943. The 29-year-old from Kansas City, Kansas, became one the multitude of U.S. service members listed as missing in action during World War II.
Marine Corps Sgt. John C. Holladay was killed in the South Pacific in 1943; his family finally was able to bury him this week.
He was officially declared dead on July 21, 1944. It wasn't until last September that relatives learned Gojmerac's remains had been identified through dental and anthropological analysis.
"We just never knew what happened to him," said Therese Moeller, a niece, who lives in Overland Park, Kansas.
"When he went missing, it affected the whole family because they all lived in the house or close to the house where he grew up," Moeller said. "I'm sure there was much grief there on Strawberry Hill and because everybody who settled there was from Croatia, they were very close."
Officials believe remains of nearly half of the 83,000 unidentified service members killed in World War II and more recent wars could be identified and returned to relatives.
Gojmerac was a member of Company Q, 4th Raider Battalion, 1st Marine Raider Regiment. According to his service record, Gojmerac and his unit went into battle with a Japanese stronghold on July 20, 1943.
"Upon hearing a wounded comrade in the front lines cry out for help, PFC Gojmerac crawled out to him through extremely heavy rifle fire, machine gun and mortar fire, administered first aid and dragged him to safety," his record states. "While assisting his wounded comrade, Gojmerac himself was seriously wounded. Following this engagement with the enemy, it was discovered Gojmerac was missing."
According to his obituary, his remains have been interred since 1949 at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.