The Second World War was a watershed in world military history as a truly global war took place. The Pacific theater was mostly the responsibility of the US forces that faced the Imperial army in a bloody campaign. In I942 the Japanese had realized the strategic importance of the Gilbert Islands, a small chain midway between the Philippines and Hawaii and occupied it just after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In 1943 the US army and marines launched an assault on the islands and at Tarawa, one of the fortified Japanese positions a ferocious battle took place. This was the start of the Central Pacific campaign to defeat the Imperial army and navy.The Americans won but the cost was heavy and over 1000 soldiers and 30 marines were killed.

The toll for the Japanese army was much more and out of a garrison of 4700 soldiers on the island, only 17 survived.

Many of the bodies of the dead US soldiers were never recovered but History flight, a Florida based non-profit organization by its efforts discovered the remains of 24 soldiers who had died in November 1943 at Tarawa. An excavation was carried out and the remains of 24 American servicemen killed on the Pacific island have been returned to the U.S. for identification. The Washinton Times reported this news.

Pentagon acts fast

The Pentagon was quick to react and a US military aircraft took the remains of the bodies to the US base in Hawaii. The remains were carried in a flag draped coffin from Tarawa to Hawai. The aircraft landed at the joint military base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and the coffin was taken out with full ceremonial honors.

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The remains of the soldiers will now be examined at a forensic laboratory at Oahu and an effort made to identify the soldiers.

In the last three years of active recovery work, History Flight has recovered at least 110 American individuals in the Pacific and seven in Europe. The organization did excellent work in Belgium and recovered the remains of the American crew of a B-26 bomber, "Hunconscious" lost fighting the Nazis but its focus remains on the island of Tarawa where heavy casualties took place.

Last word

The recovery of the remains of US soldiers who died over 70 years back shows the dedication of the American nation to honor its dead. It will be a great morale boost for the modern soldier. A nation has to preserve the memory of its soldiers killed in combat and this recovery of the remains of 24 soldiers is a step in the right direction.