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Bodies of 30 US Troops Found on Pacific Atoll

They died during bloody Battle of Tarawa
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2019 5:20 AM CDT
In this Nov. 1943 photo, sprawled bodies are seen on the beach of Tarawa atoll testifying to the ferocity of the battle for this stretch of sand during the US invasion of the Gilbert Islands.   (AP Photo, FILE)
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(Newser) – In three days of bitter fighting on the Pacific atoll of Tarawa in November 1943, as many Americans died as were killed in the first 10 years of the war in Afghanistan. Now, more than 75 years later, some of those men are finally coming home. The BBC reports that History Flight, a nonprofit group that searches for the bodies of US troops, has found the remains of more than 30 servicemen, most of them under an abandoned building that the government of Kiribati gave the group permission to destroy. Almost 1,700 Americans died fighting the Japanese during the World War II battle, including around 1,000 Marines. History Flight believes it has found the remains of men from the 6th Marine Regiment.

During the invasion of heavily fortified Betio Island in the atoll, Marines had to wade to shore under heavy machine-gun fire after their boats got stuck on a reef. History Flight says some of the remains were below the water table and water had to be pumped out daily for excavation to take place. Dr. John Byrd of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency says the remains will be flown to Hawaii next month and experts will try to identify them through DNA, dental records, and other clues, the AP reports. History Flight says the remains of 272 service members killed in the battle have been found since 2015, with around 100 of them identified, and there are an estimated 270 bodies yet to be discovered. (Read more WWII stories.)

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