At 21, Robert J. Hatch was killed alongside about 1,000 other U.S. service members in a battle against Japanese fighters for the small island of Betio.

He made it through three days of fighting before he died on Nov. 22, 1943, and was buried either alone somewhere on the island or in a cemetery there.

The military attempted to find his body in 1946, but couldn’t. Three years later, Hatch’s remains were declared “non-recoverable.”

Yet, thanks to advanced technology and a nonprofit group called History Flight, this December, the Woods Cross native’s remains are finally coming back home to Utah.

The group has continued to scour the island for additional remains, and that led to the discovery in March of Hatch’s body in a previously unknown burial trench in the cemetery.

Scientists with the agency used dental, anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis and material evidence to link the remains to Hatch.

His burial is set for Dec. 14 in Bountiful.

Hatch is the latest Utahn to have served during the World War II era to have been recovered decades later. Earlier this year, the remains of Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Lynn W. Hadfield was buried at the Utah Veterans Cemetery & Memorial Park in Bluffdale.

In 2017, Navy Musician 1st Class Elliott Larsen was buried in Monroe almost 76 years after Larsen died aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. Department of Defense identified the remains of Army Air Corps 1st Lt. Bryant E. Poulsen, of Salt Lake City, in 2015. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Transfer cases containing the possible remains of fallen service members rest in in a hangar during an honorable carry for the possible remains of unidentified service members lost in the Battle of Tarawa during World War II conducted by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific (MARFORPAC), at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, July 17, 2019. The possible remains were recently recovered from the Republic of Kiribati by History Flight, a DPAA partner organization, and will be accessioned into DPAA's laboratory facility in Hawaii to begin the identification process in support of DPAA's mission to provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Erin VandeHoef)

Nate Carlisle contributed to this report.