WWII Marines Bodies Found

Picture taken in 1999 shows the second memorial to the 22 coastwatchers near the spot on Betio islet on Tarawa, Kiribati, where they are believed to have been executed by the Japanese in 1942. AFP PHOTO/Michael FIELD (Photo credit should read MICHAEL FIELD/AFP/Getty Images) WWII Marines Bodies Found

70 years after they died, the bodies of 36 US Marines have been found on a remote Pacific island

The soldiers died in a bloody World War II battle, a member of the recovery team said.

According to a report from the AP, the remains of the men were discovered after a four-month excavation on Betio Island in Kiribati, director of US charity History Flight Inc., Mark Noah, told Radio New Zealand.

Noah, whose organisation worked with the US Defense Department on the project, said the men were killed during the Battle of Tarawa in 1943.

Mr Noah told Radio New Zealand: “(They) had an expectation that if they were to die in the line of duty defending their country they would be brought home… that was a promise made 70 years ago that we felt should be kept.”

Among the bodies is thought to be Lieutenant Alexander Bonnyman, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry – America’s highest military honour, reports Sky News.

Bonnyman’s citation says he led a series of assaults when Marines stormed the island, finally falling when he attacked a bombproof installation that was hampering the advance.

A statement on History Flight’s website said Bonnyman’s daughters had decided to have his remains interred in a family plot in Knoxville, Tennessee, next to his parents, with a public funeral service planned.

Overall, more than 1,000 Americans died at Tarawa, while the entire Japanese garrison of 4,800 was wiped out.

Noah said the remains would be repatriated this month and identified using a combination of dental records and DNA comparison with surviving relatives.

The Marines were killed in the Battle of Tarawa on Betio Island in 1943

The Marines were killed in the Battle of Tarawa on Betio Island in 1943

He said the bodies of several hundred American soldiers still lay in makeshift, unrecorded graves where they were buried after the battle.

Noah said efforts would continue to ensure that the bodies were returned home.

“There’s a lot of work to be done on the island,” he said.

More than 1,000 Americans died at Tarawa, and the entire Japanese garrison of 4,800 was wiped out.