> COMING HOME, 58 YEARS LATER
> > Jennifer Harper
> > THE WASHINGTON TIMES
> > -----------------------------------------------------------
> > Marine's quest finally rewarded
> > Perhaps only God knows what really happened one grim summer
> > afternoon in the Pacific during World War II, but one lesson
> > can be learned: Buddies never forget their own, even after
> > 58 years.
> > Thursday, Col. David Pagano of the U.S. Army Central
> > Identification Laboratory in Hawaii formally announced that
> > the bodies of 19 of 30 long-lost Marines had been found in
> > December in a mass grave on an island far from home.
> > Butaritari Island in Kiribati, to be exact.
> > But in mid-August 1942, it was called Makin Atoll, the site
> > of a fierce battle between American Marines and a Japanese
> > garrison that left behind a complex mystery and one very
> > determined leatherneck.
> > An 18-year-old infantryman named Pvt. Ben Carson was a
> > member of the 2nd Raider Battalion - "Carlson's Raiders"
> > -named for their commander, Col. Evans F. Carlson, who was
> > such a celebrated hero after leading an endless patrol
> > behind enemy lines on Guadalcanal that not one, but two,
> > popular songs were written about him.
> > "Each knows what he's fighting for, that's what he had to
> > know, or he wouldn't be with Carlson on the road to Tokyo,"
> > went one tune sung by none other than Pete Seeger and Woody
> > Guthrie in 1942.
> > The Raiders arrived off Makin in a pair of submarines and
> > went right into action.
> > On Aug. 17, they attacked the Japanese-occupied island,
> > killing 153 Japanese and destroying two seaplanes. The
> > official death count had Raiders losing 18 of their own in
> > the raid, including Clyde Thomason, a sergeant who became
> > the first enlisted Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor
> > in the war.
> > Maj. James Roosevelt - FDR's son - was also a Raider; he was
> > unhurt in the battle.
> > In rain, high seas and some confusion, the battalion beat it
> > back to the submarines, but not before Col. Carlson paid
> > some local folks $50 to bury the slain Americans. By the
> > time the battalion reached Hawaii, a sad discovery was made:
> > In addition to the 18 Marines known to have been killed, 12
> > others were missing.
> > The fate of the missing Marines remained a mystery, though
> > reports surfaced after the war that nine of the 12 had been
> > abandoned alive. They later surrendered and were beheaded by
> > the Japanese on Kwajalein, an atoll in the Marshall Islands.
> > Ben Carson, meanwhile, never forgot his comrades.
> > Along with other former Raiders, he pestered military and
> > governmental officials here and in the Pacific for decades,
> > demanding they bring home the American dead and find the
> > missing. He went so far as to revisit Butaritari.
> > The Army at last began a search in August 1998. Calls went
> > out to retired Raiders and family members for any
> > information. A kind of consortium emerged on the Internet as
> > folks traded a few facts.
> > The Raiders, incidentally, have their own Web site at
> > www.geocities.com/pentagon/quarters/3805.
> > With the help of one old man who had been part of the local
> > detail that had buried the Marines so long ago, the Army
> > excavation team found the mass grave in December.
> > As the remains were removed to a waiting C-130 aircraft
> > under color guard, the old man stood in respect and sang the
> > Marine Corps hymn in tribute.
> > It will take about a year to formally identify the bodies at
> > an Army facility in Hawaii.
> > And Mr. Carson - now 76 and living in Hillsborough, Ore. -
> > was just plain elated.
> > "I'm very, very happy. Nothing could be better than this,"
> > he said in December upon hearing that his buddies had
> > finally been found.
> > But his mission is not quite over. Pvt. Carson wants the
> > Army to find all those Marines missing or killed. The Army
> > does, too, though it is a challenge.
> > Kwajalein is an Army ballistic missile testing base, and the
> > last man said to have witnessed the beheading of the Marines
> > is now dead. The Japanese commander involved in the incident
> > was executed for war crimes.
> > "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," Col. Pagano
> > said Thursday.
> > He hopes that someone, somewhere will surface.
> > In the meantime, he calls the fallen Raiders true heroes who
> > need to come home and be properly tended to. And for their
> > families, the pain is as real now as it was in the summer of
> > '42.
> > "There is a commitment in our organization to today's
> > service members that if, God forbid, they should fall, their
> > country will bring them home," Col. Pagano said.