Home at last: Remains of KCK Marine killed in WWII returns to family after 75 years

The last time anyone saw Marine Corps Reserve PFC Nicholas J. Gojmerac alive, he was dragging a wounded comrade to safety during a battle on the Solomon Islands in 1943.

According to Gojmerac’s service record, he was seriously wounded when he crawled into heavy machine gun fire.

From that point, what happened to him gets blurred by the fog of war. The 29-year-old who grew up in the Strawberry Hill neighborhood became one of the tens of thousands of U.S. service members listed as missing in action during WWII.

Though the Secretary of the Navy officially declared Gojmerac dead on July 21, 1944, nothing of him ever came back to his hometown of Kansas City, Kansas.

“We just never knew what happened to him,” said Therese Moeller, a niece, who lives in Overland Park.

Then, last September, Moeller received a phone call telling her Gojmerac’s remains had been positively identified through dental and anthropological analysis.

“It was surreal,” she said.

Together, with remaining family members, they decided to bring her uncle home.

“When he went missing, it affected the whole family because they all lived in the house or close to the house where he grew up,” Moeller said. “I’m sure there was much grief there on Strawberry Hill and because everybody who settled there was from Croatia, they were very close.”

On Tuesday, under bright blue skies, Gojmerac’s remains were returned to his family on the tarmac of Kansas City International Airport.

Nicholas J. Gojmerac grew up in the Strawberry Hill neighborhood and died when he was 29. Family photo

A Marine Corps honor guard was there to greet the flag-draped casket. On Friday, Gojmerac will be interred at Leavenworth National Cemetery, with full military honors.

Gojmerac was a member of Company Q, 4th Raider Battalion, 1st Marine Raider Regiment. The account of his last known whereabouts are documented in his service record.

According to the record, Gojmerac and his unit went into battle with a Japanese stronghold at Bairoko Harbor, New Georgia Island, Solomon Islands on July 20, 1943.

The record goes on, “Upon hearing a wounded comrade in the front lines cry out for help, PFC Gojmerac crawled out to him through extremely heavy rifle fire, machine gun and mortar fire, administered first aid and dragged him to safety. While assisting his wounded comrade, Gojmerac himself was seriously wounded. Following this engagement with the enemy, it was discovered Gojmerac was missing.”

He was officially listed as missing in action on July 20, 1943. Gojmerac’s presumed date of death is listed as July 21, 1943.

According to his obituary, his remains have been interred since 1949 at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

On September 24, 2018, Gojmerac’s remains were positively identified — 75 years after he was killed in battle.

Related stories from Kansas City Star