SAN DIEGO — In a moving ceremony Wednesday, Staff Sergeant Wesley L. Kroenung, Jr., a Marine Corps combat cameraman killed in action back in 1943, in Japan, was laid to rest at Miramar National Cemetery.
Sgt. Kroenung died during World War II on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands while serving with the 2nd Marine Division.
Sgt. Kroenung had trained at Universal Studios to become a cinematographer but immediately enlisted when WWII broke out.
“He was walking into battle holding up his camera so it wouldn’t be damaged by the water as they waded through the coral reefs when he was hit by cannon fire. He died instantly,” said Sgt. Kroenung’s sister, Nancy Lee.
He was only 25 years old.
According to the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency, Sgt. Kroenung’s remains were buried on the island, but for decades could not be identified until recently, through DNA testing, he was officially accounted for on April 16, 2019.
Nancy never got to a chance to grow up with her brother.
“He was killed in 1943, when I was just a baby,” she said.
Before being laid to rest, Marines received Sgt. Kroenung’s remains Wednesday at the San Diego International Airport.
His family said they are grateful to be able to bury their loved one.
Nancy said her brother’s death was hard on their father.
“He died never knowing where his son was. He never knew all his life. Wesley was simply missing in action,” she said.
Nancy said now she can visit her big brother always and their family finally has the closure they needed.
The Battle of Tarawa was considered one of the bloodiest in WWII, where 6,400 soldiers died in battle.