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Remains of 19 WWII Marines Identified
Finally coming home after 58 years missing in action
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To follow up on our Nov. 27, 2000 story presenting the efforts of the U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs, the U.S. Department of Defense has announced the identification of remains of 19 Marine Raiders killed in action on Butaritari Island (Makin Atoll) in August 1942. After over 58 years of being listed as missing in action, the remains of these World War II heroes will at last be returned to their families for burial.

The remains identified are those of:

  • Capt. Gerald P. Holtom, Palo Alto, Calif.
  • Sgt. Clyde Thomason, Atlanta, Ga.
  • FM1C. Vernon L. Castle, Stillwater, Okla.
  • Cpl. I.B. Earles, Tulare, Calif.
  • Cpl. Daniel A. Gaston, Galveston, Tex.
  • Cpl. Harris J. Johnson, Little Rock, Iowa
  • Cpl. Kenneth K. Kunkle, Mountain Home, Ark.
  • Cpl. Edward Maciejewski, Chicago, Ill.
  • Cpl. Robert B. Pearson, Lafayette, Calif.
  • Cpl. Mason O. Yarbrough, Sikeston, Mo.
  • Pfc. William A. Gallagher, Wyandotte, Mich.
  • Pfc. Ashley W. Hicks, Waterford, Calif.
  • Pfc. Kenneth M. Montgomery, Eden, Wis.
  • Pfc. Norman W. Mortensen, Camp Douglas, Wis.
  • Pfc. John E. Vandenberg, Kenosha, Wis.
  • Pvt. Carlyle O. Larson, Glenwood, Minn.
  • Pvt. Robert B. Maulding, Vista, Calif.
  • Pvt. Franklin M. Nodland, Marshalltown, Iowa
  • Pvt. Charles A. Selby, Ontonagon, Mich.

The Marines, members of the 2nd Raider Battalion, were killed during the August 17-18, 1942, raid on Japanese-held Butaritari Island.

Under the command of Lt. Col. Evans F. Carlson and Capt. James Roosevelt, son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Marines were delivered to the island by submarine. In departing by rubber boats while under enemy fire, the Raiders were unable to evacuate the bodies of their fallen comrades.

The remains were located and recovered from a mass grave on Butaritari in November and December of 1999 by a team from the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii.

Since late 1999, advanced forensic identification processes, including the use of mitochondrial DNA, along with inspection of historical military records have been used to positively determine the identity of each Marine and to locate their next of kin.

Among the remains recovered are those of Sgt. Clyde Thomason, the first enlisted Marine awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II.

The first burial is expected to be that of Cpl. Yarbrough in Sikeston, Mo. in December. 

The identification of these Marines contributes to the ongoing effort by the Department of Defense to locate and identify more than 88,000 American service members who remain missing in action from World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

 

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