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John Elwood "Johnnie" Hurlburt was a United States Army soldier who was killed in action during the Battle of Saipan Island on July 7, 1944. His remains were found in March of 1948 and they were identified on August 16, 2020.

Background

John Hurlburt was born on June 21, 1918 in New Haven, Connecticut to Harry and Clara Hurlburt. He grew up in North Madison, Connecticut on Opening Hill Road. He attended Daniel Hand High School and then worked at Winchester Repeating Arms Company in New Haven.

Military Service

On February 24, 1941, he enlisted in the United States Army and was eventually assigned as a Sergeant to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division.

On June 15, 1944, the V Amphibious Corps (consisting of the 2nd Marine Division, the 4th Marine Division, and the 27th Infantry Division) invaded the island of Saipan as part of Operation Forager. Defending the island was the 31st Army of the Imperial Japanese Army. Hurlburt participated in the battle and it was reported he was killed in action on July 7, 1944 when the Japanese staged a massive attack against the 105th Infantry Regiment. Further details of his death are currently unknown.

The Battle of Saipan, sometimes called the Pacific D-Day, ended two days later on July 9, 1944. 1,370 American Marines and soldiers were killed wounded, or missing, 29,000 Japanese soldiers were killed (with 5,000 committing suicide), and 20,000 civilians were killed.

Aftermath

After his death, Hurlburt was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He was also memorialized in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was declared dead by the US Army in 1946.

After World War II ended, the American Graves Registration Service searched and disinterred remains of United States servicemen of the Pacific Theater. In March of 1948, Hurlburt's remains were located. Although his dog tags were found with the remains, dubbed "X-20," the AGRS erroneously determined the "X-20" was not Hurlburt. "X-20" was buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines on June 15, 1950.

Identification

Through research, DPAA historians determined "X-20" could possibly be eight service members, including Hurlburt. "X-20" was disinterred on December 26, 2018 and sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, for analysis.

Through dental and anthropological analysis, as well as mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis and circumstantial evidence, "X-20" Was identified as being Johnnie Hurlburt on August 19, 2020. He was buried with full military honorsat Beaverdale Memorial Park in New Haven on August 14, 2021.

Sources

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