WWII Veteran Awarded High School Diploma

Marine Sgt. James Hubert was Killed in the Battle of Tarawa

DULUTH, Minn. – Some 78 years after Marine Sgt. James Hubert should have graduated from Denfeld High School, the World War II veteran received his diploma.

“This is just one small thing we as a district and as a community can do to honor the ultimate sacrifice the family and Sgt. Hubert made for our country,” said Amy Starzecki, Duluth Public Schools Assistant Superintendent. “We’re privileged and honored to be able to present this diploma.”

Sgt. Hubert was killed During the Battle of Tarawa in the Pacific theater on November 21st, 1943. After the battle, his remains were buried in what’s become known as Tarawa’s lost cemetery.

“Never had any inkling he might be ever found,” said Jay Hagen, Sgt. Hubert’s nephew. “You start to presume they’re not looking anymore.”

That resting place was found in 2015 by a group called History Flight, who identified Sgt. Hubert by comparing his DNA to relatives like Hagen, and his mother, Sgt. Hubert’s youngest sister, Mary Kay.

“After all these years, it just seemed like a miracle,” said Mary Kay Hagen. “All I could think was I wish my sister was still alive, because they grew up together.”

Sgt. Hubert dropped out of high school after his sophomore year to join the military. That was 1937. When news broke his remains had been identified and were coming home, Denfeld’s Alumni Association wanted to find a way to honor him.

“We thought it would be a good thing that he get a diploma and an ‘Honor D’, said Alumni Association member Angelo Florestano.

After the ceremony, family toured the school and added Sgt. Hubert’s name to the floor of Denfeld’s tower, a modern tradition for Hunter seniors.

“I was only two when he was killed, so I have no recollection of him except pictures and stories,” said Mary Kay.

Sgt. Hubert will be laid to rest Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at Duluth’s Calvary Cemetery.  Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to issue a proclamation in Sgt. Hubert’s honor as well.

In lieu of flowers, Sgt. Hubert’s family requests donations be made in his name to History Flight.