More than 20 American service members who were killed in a bloody World War II battle are finally back on U.S. soil – and are one step closer to getting the burials they rightfully deserve.
An Air Force plane carrying the remains of 22 who died during the Battle of Tarawa in 1943 – which took place on and around the remote island of Betio in the Pacific – landed Wednesday at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. The caskets containing the remains, which were draped in American flags, were then carried off the aircraft by Marines as part of a ceremony.
“We welcome home more than 20 American servicemen still unaccounted for from the battle of Tarawa during World War II,” Acting Defense Secretary Richard V. Spencer said. “We do not forget those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and it is our duty and obligation to return our missing home to their families and the nation.”
Service members and guests stand as “Taps” is played over transfer cases carrying the remains of unidentified service members lost in the Battle of Tarawa during World War II. (AP)
Forensic archaeologists from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) are now working to identify the remains and notify the next of kin, the Defense Department says. They are believed to belong to members of the 6th Marine Regiment who died during the last day of the 76-hour battle, the Associated Press reports. – READ MORE