Essex County (N.J.) Legions welcome home World War II KIA 79 years later

Essex County (N.J.) Legions welcome home World War II KIA 79 years later

After 79 years, the American Legion Post 105 Family, at the invitation of Post 70, assisted in welcoming home U.S. Navy Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Anthony Di Petta, 24, of Nutley, N.J., after making the ultimate sacrifice in World War II. Di Petta was killed in action in 1944 in the Pacific and was finally accounted for on Jan. 8, 2023. He returned stateside the second week of July, being buried at the Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

Born in Italy in 1920, Di Petta enlisted in the U.S. Navy in New York City on Dec. 6, 1939, as a seaman apprentice.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) reported earlier in the year that the ordnanceman’s remains had been discovered 79 years after his death:

“In the fall of 1944, Di Petta was the Aviation Ordnanceman assigned to the Navy Torpedo Squadron 20, USS Enterprise. On Sept. 10, Di Petta and two other crew members abroad the TBM-1C Avenger took off on a mission to conduct air strikes against enemy targets in Malakal Naval District, Palau Islands. Their aircraft was struck by enemy anti-aircraft fire and crashed into water near Malakal. Efforts to recover Di Petta’s remains were unsuccessful. Following the war, the American Graves Registration Service conducted exhaustive searches of battle areas and crash sites in Palau, concluding their search in the summer of 1947. Investigators could not find any evidence of Di Petta or his aircraft. He was declared non-recoverable July 16, 1949.”

Excavations of the site were done in 2019 and 2021, at which point the remains of Di Petta and others on the plane were recovered, and ultimately identified in Hawaii by dental remains and DNA analysis.

Months later back in New Jersey, the Belleville Post 105 Family provided the color guard, with members of the Post 70 Family of Nutley and VFW Post 493 coordinating all veterans at the event alongside the township’s Military and Veteran Affairs Bureau. Reported by the Patch of Nutley, Bureau Director Daniel Jacoby stated, “I’m proud of Nutley for honoring this hero and giving him the welcoming-home he deserved.”

In a huge funeral procession of police and firemen from throughout the area, the sailor along with his family passed under a giant American flag hoisted over the road by a Nutley Fire Department ladder truck. They then paused for a moment in front of the war memorial, where the color guard called "Present Arms!” while taps was sounded.