World War II Marine returns to Bakersfield over 70 years after he lost his life

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - After more than 70 years, fallen Marine Sgt. William David Ball Jr. has returned home.

Sgt. Ball was a nameless soldier in an unmarked grave – until recently.

“For all those years not to know what happened and then finally find out even though my parents are gone, we’re here,” Ken Stevens, nephew of the fallen Marine, said the night his body was brought back to Bakersfield. “It’s amazing what the military and the marines have done to keep after it.”

Ken Stevens’ father was in the Air Force the same time as Sgt. William David Ball Jr., or as he refers to him “Uncle Billy”, who lo0st his life in the Battle of Tarowa in 1943.

He was killed on a Japanese island on the way to the aid station. The wounds were so severe he was not able to be identified until forensic science did so this summer.

The family decided to bring him home from his resting place in Hawaii, where he was buried as an unknown soldier.

The fallen Marine was escorted by the Los Angeles and Bakersfield Patriot Riders from LAX.

“Billy’s a marine forever,” Stevens said.

His service will take place Monday at 10:45 a.m. at the Bakersfield National Cemetery – exactly 74-year after he lost his life.

“I imagine in my mind here this man lay in a grave for 74 years unknown…and is now coming home to be buried,”  Ray Mish, the president of Mission Family Mortuary said.

He is part of the team putting the fallen Marine properly to rest.

“I feel as a veteran of World War 2 that I am privileged to take care of this young man and welcome him home,” Mish said. Sgt. Ball will be buried next to his brother who served in the 101st Airborn.

“They’ll be buried together – side by side – at national cemetery,” Stevens said.

A family reunion over 70 years in the making.

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