US marines mass-grave found on Makin Island : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

This a little off the usual story but thought it was interesting enough to post.


US marines mass-grave found

Source: AFP | Published: Thursday March 30, 9:03 AM

AUCKLAND, March 30 - A mass grave of United States marines who went missing during World War II in the central Pacific has been found.

The find has led military authorities to appeal for witnesses who may have seen other soldiers beheaded by the Japanese.

A US Army official confirmed today the dead all came from the US Marine's 2nd Raider Battalion which attacked Japanese-occupied Butaritari Island (then known as Makin and now part of Kiribati) in August 1942.

Of the group, whose deputy commander was the then president's son Major James Roosevelt, 30 went missing and their fate has never been determined.

Colonel David Pagano of the US Army's central identification laboratory in Hawaii said they had located a mass grave last December containing 20 bodies. At least 19 of them were marines but the other may be a local person.

Pagano said they had now flown the bodies to Honolulu where they will undergo a year-long identification process based on dental records.

There is still no sign of the other missing soldiers but historical evidence points to nine marine prisoners being taken to Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands where they were beheaded by the Japanese.

Because none of the missing had been located until now it has never been known who was killed in battle and who was executed.

Pagano said their search would now move to Kwajalein, which is a vast US Army ballistic missile testing base.

"We have not located the ones who are believed to have died on Kwajalein," Pagano said.

"We need to find good reliable witnesses who will lead us to where they are buried.

"We just know of the story and we know of the trace of what presumably happened. We have yet to get a witness to tell us where they were buried or if they were buried."

He said they would never give up looking for the remains.

"We consider each and every one of them American heroes. They gave up their lives for the country and they deserve to be bought back to America for proper resting and burial."

The original American attack on Butaritari led Japan to seize New Zealand coast watchers who were based on nearby atolls in the Gilbert Islands chain.

On October 15, 1942, the New Zealanders taken then were part of a group of 22 who were beheaded on Tarawa, now the capital of Kiribati.

It was never clear why the New Zealanders were executed but coincidentally the American executions occurred the next day on Kwajalein. Both Tarawa and Kwajalein were under the same joint Japanese commander and both groups were the only allied prisoners in the region at the time.

-- Martin Thompson (, March 29, 2000

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