|By Sgt. Kane Walsh,
Marine Forces Pacific Public Affairs
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Remains believed to be
those of 20 U.S. Marines killed in action on Butaritari Island
during World War II's Makin Atoll Raid in August, 1942, were
repatriated at a ceremony here Dec. 17.
The Marines were from the famous 2nd Raider Battalion, a commando
organization specializing in amphibious landings. One of the
Marine Raiders killed in action during the Makin Atoll raid was Sgt.
Clyde Thomason, the first enlisted Marine awarded the Medal of Honor
during World War II. The medal was presented posthumously for
his actions on Butaritari.
“Marines are Marines whether or not they are living or dead –
that’s the tie that binds us together as Marines,” said retired
Marine sergeant major and Medal of Honor recipient Allan J. Kellogg
Jr., an attendee at the repatriation ceremony. “We’re going to
keep working until they are all back.”
The U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI)
conducted a series of three search and recovery efforts beginning in
August, 1998. According to CILHI officials, the recovery of
remains on Butaritari represents the largest and potentially the
most significant recovery to date. For two Marines who
participated in the excavation as part of CILHI, its significance
would be difficult to overstate.
“At the end of every day, I was run down, tired, hot and sweaty,”
said GySgt. Darrell E. Farringer. “But then every morning I
woke up feeling confident and determined. We were going to
find them and bring those Marines home.”
Eighteen Marines were killed and 12 were declared missing
following the historic landing in 1942 -- the first such use of the
newly created Marine Raiders. Personally led by one of the
founders of the Raiders, then-Maj. Evans Carlson, two companies of
Marine Raiders battled the Japanese force holding Butaritari,
leaving at least 83 enemy dead and destroying two seaplanes.
The son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Maj. James Roosevelt,
also participated in the raid, and, along with the other surviving
Marine Raiders, successfully withdrew by rubber boats to awaiting
U.S. Navy submarines.
Nine of the missing 12 Raiders were captured and executed by
Japanese soldiers on Kwajalein. Due to the difficult
withdrawal from the island and problems with communications, the
missing men weren’t even known to be missing until weeks
later. By then, it was too late.
“It was an honor to be a part of something like this,” said Capt.
Thomas Wood, the commander of troops for the ceremony. “It was
very humbling to be standing out there thinking about the sacrifices
these Marines made.”
Although the remains are believed to be those of the Marines
killed in action on Butaritari, CILHI officials will conduct
examinations to positively identify them. According to
officials at CILHI, positive identification can take more than a
year to complete.
“This has been probably the most important mission I’ve been on,”
said Capt. David McMullen, a co-pilot of the KC-130R from VMGR-152
that brought the remains home.