36 Marines Lost in Bloody WWII Battle Finally Home
Remains of men who fell in 1943's Battle of Tarawa arrived in Hawaii
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 27, 2015 10:13 AM CDT
U.S. Marines carry the remains of 36 unidentified Marines found at a World War II battlefield during a ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Sunday, July 26, 2015, in Honolulu. A Florida-based private...   (Marco Garcia)
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(Newser) – The US military and a private organization have brought home the remains of 36 Marines killed in one of World War II's bloodiest battles. More than 990 US Marines and 30 sailors died during the three-day Battle of Tarawa in 1943. Japanese machine gun fire killed scores of Marines when their boats got stuck on the reef at low tide during the US amphibious assault. Americans who made it to the beach faced brutal hand-to-hand combat. Only 17 of the 3,500 Japanese troops survived. The US quickly buried the thousands of dead on the tiny atoll of Tarawa. But the graves were soon disturbed as the Navy urgently built a landing strip to prepare for an attack on the next Pacific island on their path to Tokyo. About 520 US servicemen are still unaccounted for from the battle.

A group called History Flight recovered the remains from the remote Pacific atoll, the US Marine Corps said. A ceremony was held yesterday in Pearl Harbor to mark their return. History Flight has started identifying the remains, and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency will complete the effort, the Marines said. The Marines plan to return the remains to their families after they've been identified. Preliminary work conducted by History Flight indicates the remains of 1st Lt. Alexander J. Bonnyman, Jr., a Marine who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, are among the 36 brought to Hawaii. Read more on how Bonnyman was positively IDed here.
 

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