Nicholas J. Cancilla

December 6, 1924 ~ November 20, 1943 (age 18)


Pfc. Nicholas J. Cancilla

Pfc. Nicholas J. Cancilla, 18, Altoona, who was killed in action during WWII and was listed as MIA, is finally being brought home after his remains were recovered on Betio Island, Tarwa Atoll.

He was born in Altoona, son of the late Frank Sr. and Mary (Arcodia) Cancilla.

Surviving are a sister-in-law, Mary Cancilla of Altoona; a niece, Darlene (Frank) Johnson of Midlothian, Va.; a great-niece, Marissa; a great-nephew, Travis; and many cousins.

His only brother, Frank Jr., who would have been proud that they finally found his brother and brought him back to his home town, unfortunately passed away on Nov. 16, 2015. Nicholas also had a nephew who was named after him and was killed in action during the Vietnam War while serving in the U.S. Navy on a PT boat.

Nicholas joined the U.S. Marines Corps in October 1942. After finishing basic training, he was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division during WWII. On Nov. 20, 1943, the 2nd Marines led an assault on the small island of Betio in the Tarwa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands where they met a large entrenched Japanese resistance. Nicholas, along with many other marines and sailors, gave the ultimate sacrifice during a several-days battle for the small island.

His family is grateful that he will be laid to rest after 73 years and is extremely thankful for the Marine Corps who worked diligently on determining Nicholas's identity and bringing him home to his family.

Friends will be received at the funeral Mass, which will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, Altoona. Committal with full military honors will be held at Calvary Cemetery, Altoona. Arrangements are by Santella Funeral Home, Altoona.

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