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Marine From Central Coast Finally Coming Home Seven Decades After Being Killed In Action

George Murray of Oceano (right) and his sister Thelma, in a photo montage created by their mother. George Murrar died in 1943 during the battle for Tarawa, but his remains wern't positively identified until this summer

It’s an event more than seven decades in coming for a soldier from the Central Coast, whose remains are coming home more than seven decades after he died during World War II.

George Murray of Oceano was a Marine who was killed during the brutal fight with Japanese forces for the tiny island of Tarawa. The Marines knew he had died, but couldn’t identify the 20 year old's body.

George Winslett, who is Murray’s nephew, says his heartbroken mother, and two sisters hoped his remains would be found, but they never lived to see it happen.

The war took a huge toll on the tiny Central Coast town, with eight young men from Oceano killed in action. The community created a memorial for the eight, including Murray. It started out at the Oceano Women’s Club, and when it closed, it was moved to the Oceano Train Depot Museum.

Linda Austin is from a longtime Oceano family that’s been involved in a number of community projects. Austin, who’s with the railroad depot museum, met Murray’s family, and started researching his story. She found a government agency which helps track down the remains of missing soldiers.

Key to the effort was getting George Winslett’s DNA into the military agency’s database. Austin says on June 6th, they received word that DNA found from some remains found in Tarawa were a match. Austin says the whole community is preparing to give the Marine the hero’s welcome he deserves. There will be a motorcade from LAX to Arroyo Grande with the remains Thursday night. Then, on Friday there will be a procession through Oceano and Grover Beach leading to the Marine’s burial in Arroyo Grande, in a plot with his mother. Murray’s family is overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone who helped make the Marine’s return possible, especially Austin. Winslett, says the family can rest better knowing that the Murray’s mother, and her long lost son will soon be reunited forever.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.