WASHINGTON Backed by U.S. veterans groups, researchers said they used ground-penetrating radar and GPS technologies to locate the remains of 139 missing U.S. Marines killed in the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943.
An organization called History Flight (Marathon, Fla.) along with WFI Research Group (Fall River, Mass.) said Monday (Nov. 24) they used ground-penetrating radar with 250 and 500 MHz antennas and a surveyor-quality Trimble GPS system to locate the remains. The partners said the 139 Marines were discovered in eight separate mass burial sites on Tarawa Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean.
Veteran groups estimate there were a total of 541 U.S. Marines missing after the Battle of Tawara. WFI said it conducted two surveys of the Pacific island, completing the second on Nov. 8.
"All [of the remains] are believed to be the Marines and sailors from the actual battle and not later casualties. Five of the eight burial sites have had U.S. Marine remains accidentally dug up during the extensive construction activity on the island," WFI said in a statement.
Among those found was Marine 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The World War II Battle of Tarawa was fought from Nov. 20-23, 1943, as part of a U.S. offensive against Japanese forces in the central Pacific. The battle claimed the lives of an estimated 1,687 U.S. Marines and Navy personnel and wounded at least 2,200 U.S. troops. An estimated 4,800 Japanese defenders were killed in the battle.