After 76 years, family set to welcome fallen Marine home


FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Louisville marine declared missing in action nearly 80 years ago is finally returning home.

John Massey, aka Jack, is the namesake of John Richard Bayens, but he never met his uncle.

“It was always a mystery within the family, but we were always so proud of him,” Massey said. “I just remember my grandparents always around the house and my grandfather cherished the medals.”

But a few months ago, the 76-year mystery about the WWII veteran was solved. 

John Richard Bayens of Louisville was killed in the Battle of Tarawa on November 22, 1943, just days after his twentieth birthday. His remains were reportedly buried in Cemetery 33 on Betio Island.

In 1946, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company centralized all of the American remains buried. But, half of the known casualties were never found and that included Bayens, who was in Row D. 

The soldier was declared “non-recoverable” in 1949. That is until History Flight, Inc., a nonprofit organization, finally identified Row D in 2014. Excavations of the site uncovered multiple sets of remains. Jack’s sister supplied a DNA sample.

“They identified him by his teeth and if you look at his smile, you can tell he had the best set of teeth in the world,” Massey said. A chest x-ray also positively identified the Marine.

It was a moment of closure for the family who now can properly bid farewell to their fallen hero. The family will be greeting his body on the tarmac at the Louisville Airport on Friday and will hold a funeral service with full military honors on December 16th. 

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