Marines Killed on Tarawa – One Man’s Long Road Home

 In Military, Veterans

Marines Killed on Tarawa – One Man’s Long Road Home

The remains of US Marines found on the Tarawa Atoll have been coming home, thanks to History Flight. That’s an NGO that has worked with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to repatriate the men to America. On Tuesday, Pfc James B. Johnson, of Poughkeepsie, New York, was laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington after having been missing for 73 years.


Pfc James B. Johnson- photo from Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

Full Military honors, 73 years later

Johnson was killed in action on the very first day of the battle, November 20, 1943. He was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.

Though his remains were recovered last June, it took a DNA match to finally identify him. His nephew, James C. Johnson, provided the sample. There were approximately 35 Marines found at that time in a burial site on the Island of Betio.


Pfc James B Johnson is finally home photo via wisn

CNN reported:

The funeral was held with full military honors. A Marine firing party shot three rifle volleys into the air, a 20-member Marine band played at the gravesite and a Marine funeral platoon participated in the ceremony, which was attended by Johnson’s surviving relatives, giving them an opportunity for closure after a seven-decades-long wait.
After a Marine bugler played “Taps,” the ceremonial burial flag, which was draped over Johnson’s coffin, was folded and presented by Marine Sgt. Maj. Joseph Garay, of the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., to Johnson’s next of kin, his nephew, James C. Johnson, who provided the DNA for the test and is himself a decorated Special Forces Vietnam veteran.
Recovery missions

So far, there have been 30 missions to the Tarawa Atoll, where there were 3,000 USMC casualties– 1,000 killed and 2,000 wounded.


It was low tide, and the men had to come ashore by wading across sharp coral. Many were cut down by enemy fire before they reached the shore. Photo via wwarii.

We’ve reported previously about the search for the remains of US Marines on the Tarawa Atoll. Many of the Marines have been identified and laid to rest.

The Tarawa atoll was a place of strategic importance during WWII, as it was the “gateway” between Hawaii and the Philippines.




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