Missing for 78+ years, Nutley Navyman’s remains accounted for and will be returned home

A World War II veteran from Nutley, who was killed in action and missing for decades, was officially accounted for Jan. 3, 2023, the military says.

The Defense Department POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the remains of U.S. Navy Aviation Ordnanceman First Class Anthony DiPetta, killed in combat in the Pacific theater during World War II 78+ years ago, were located and recovered off Malakal Island in the Republic of Palau, a sovereign island nation in the Pacific, located about 800 miles southwest of Guam.

He was just 24 when he died.

The recovery of remains was due to ongoing research, search and recovery efforts by Project Recover, a non-profit that works to recover American service members worldwide who never made it home from battle.

 “Project Recover is proud of the incredible efforts that went into locating and repatriating Anthony DiPetta. We remain committed to our nation’s lost service members and the millions of Gold Star MIA family members across the country that are still anxiously waiting to learn what happened to their loved ones,” Derek Abbey, president/CEO of Project Recover, said.

Project Recover and partners at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California and the University of Delaware use advanced technology and historic records to locate crash sites, carefully explore and document them and when possible, repatriate the remains of the fallen.

DiPetta’s crash site was located in 2015 after several years of Project Recover search missions. Multiple underwater-recovery missions with contributions by Legion Undersea Services, were executed following the location of the crash site.

To identify DiPetta’s remains, the Department of Defense says scientists used dental analysis while  scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis.

The Avenger, containing DiPetta and two other crew members, took off from the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier on Sept. 10, 1944. The crew was a part of Torpedo Squadron 20 (VT-20) on a bombing mission targeting antiaircraft positions and transport ships near Malakal Harbor.

Searches for DiPetta ended in 1947 — and he was declared “unrecoverable” July 16, 1949.

The Avenger was struck by enemy anti-aircraft fire and crashed into water near Malakal Island.

The DOD says DiPetta’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in the Philippines, along with others still missing from WWII.

A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he’s been accounted for.

DiPetta’s burial date and location have yet to be determined. Family and funeral information may be found by contacting the Navy Service Casualty office at (800) 443-9298. For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving America, visit www.dpaa.mil, www.facebook.com/dodpaa or www.linkedin.com/company/defense-pow-mia-accounting-agency.

For three decades, Project Recover has been working to bring closure to the families of the missing.

To date, Project Recover has conducted dozens of missions in more than 20 countries to locate and document more than 200 associated MIAs. Hundreds of future missions have been identified with the goal of bringing closure to the families of the tens of thousands who remain missing.

“We continue to work diligently on thousands of additional MIA cases and strive to provide the same healing and closure to these deserving families,” Abbey said.

The missions of Project Recover to locate America’s Missing in Action are possible through public and private support.

Learn more about the writer ...

Editor & Broadcaster at 

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.