What Happened to the Makin Atoll Marine Raiders?
Veterans Day was two weeks ago, Memorial Day will not be for another six months.
I just became aware of an unbelievably heart-wrenching yet uplifting story about some of our World War II troops — a story that does not need any special occasion to be told.
All we need to do is step away for a few minutes from the politics of the day and read and watch.
So without any further ado — except for “have your handkerchiefs ready” when you watch the video — here it goes.
A November 29, 2000, news release by the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, contained the simple announcement:
The remains of 19 World War II Marine Raiders killed in action on Butaritari Island (Makin Atoll) and listed as missing in action since August 1942 were recently identified, and will be returned to their families for burial.
The release then listed the names of the 19 Marines and continued:
The Marines were members of the Marine Corps’ 2nd Raider Battalion, killed during the August 17-18, 1942, raid on Japanese-held Butaritari Island, during which an estimated 83 Japanese soldiers were killed. Lt. Col. Evans F. Carlson commanded the Raiders during the operation, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s son, Capt. James Roosevelt, was the operation’s second-in-command. Ferried to the island by submarine and landing on and departing Butaritari by rubber boats, the Marines were unable to evacuate the bodies of their fallen comrades. With the assistance of island inhabitants, including a man who assisted in the burial of the Marines in 1942, a recovery team from the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CILHI) uncovered a mass grave and excavated the remains in November and December 1999.
After describing how the identities of the 19 Marines were established and how the next of kin were located, the news release notes that “arrangements for the transportation and burial of the Marines are underway, in consultation with the families” and that the first burial was expected to be that of Cpl. Yarbrough in Sikeston, Mo. Also, that among the remains recovered were those of Sgt. Clyde Thomason, the first enlisted Marine awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II.
This is the video:
The names of the Marine Raiders recovered from Makin Island:
Field. Music 1st Vernon L. Castle, Stillwater, OK
Cpl. I. B. Earles, Tulare, CA
Pfc. William A. Gallagher, Wyandotte, MI
Cpl. Daniel A. Gaston, Galveston, TX
Pfc. Ashley W. Hicks, Waterford, CA
Capt. Gerald P. Holtom, Palo Alto, CA
Cpl. Harris J. Johnson, Little Rock, Iowa
Cpl. Kenneth K. Kunkle, Mountain Home, AK
Pvt. Carlyle O. Larson, Glenwood, MN
Cpl. Edward Maciejewski, Chicago, IL
Pvt. Robert B. Maulding, Vista, CA
Pfc . Kenneth M. Montgomery, Eden, WI
Pfc. Norman W. Mortensen, Camp Douglas, WI
Pvt. Franklin M. Nodland, Marshall town, IA
Cpl. Robert B. Pearson, Lafayette, CA
Pvt. Charles A. Selby, Ontonagon, MI
Pfc. John E. Vandenberg, Kenosha, WI
Cpl. , Mason O. Yarbrough, Sikeston, MO
Sgt. Clyde Thomason, Atlanta, Ga.
On August 17, 2001, 13 of the Marine heroes were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
The families of six other Marines killed elected to have private burials. A casket containing co-mingled remains would be interred during the ceremony in addition to the 13 individual caskets.