Almost 80 years after he was killed in action, Nutley serviceman’s remains finally come home

Nearly 80 years after he was thought to be forever lost, a fallen World War II Navy sailor has finally returned home.

On Tuesday, July 11, Nutley Township community members gathered at the World War II Memorial to pay homage to fallen Nutley resident US Navy Ordnancemen First Class Anthony DiPetta, whose remains were recovered decades after he was killed in a WWII air strike.

Following a private service, DiPetta’s funeral procession made its way past the World War II Memorial as supporters honored DiPetta and his family.

“We welcomed home one of our Nutley sons who has been gone for over 79 years,” Mayor Joseph Scarpelli said. “The community was there to console his family and we thank Anthony DiPetta for his service and for making the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms.”

“The whole town came together to welcome a hero home and send him to his final resting place, the correct way,” Commissioner John V. Kelly III said. “I think of the quote from George S. Patton: ‘It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.’ I think that is true here. We are all honored that he called Nutley home and that he laid down his life for friends, family and his country. We are honored he was a part of Nutley. Even though it’s almost 80 years later, we hope that his return home can bring some comfort to his family.”

On Sept. 10, 1944, 24-year-old DiPetta, along with two other crew members, boarded an Avenger bomber jet, taking off from the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier to conduct air strikes against enemy targets. Their aircraft was struck by enemy fire and crashed into the waters of the Pacific near Malakal Island, about 800 miles southwest of Guam.

Recovery efforts were halted nearly three years later, in the summer of 1947, and on July 16, 1949, DiPetta and crew were declared non-recoverable.

But the crash site was ultimately found in 2015 after several years of Project Recover search missions.

In partnership with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), the project recovered MIAs from the Avenger during their first MIA Recovery Mission in 2021. Scientists from DPAA used dental analysis to identify DiPetta’s remains, while scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

Di Petta’s personnel profile may be viewed at

Learn more about the writer ...

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.