WASHINGTON -- The Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office announced that the remains of a U.S. serviceman lost during World War II have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors, according to a DoD news release issued July 21.
Marine Corps Pfc. Randolph Allen of Rush, Kentucky, will be buried July 29 in Arlington National Cemetery, Washington D.C., according to the release. In November 1943, Allen was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division. He landed with his unit on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll in an attempt to secure the island against stiff Japanese resistance. Over several days of intense fighting approximately 1,000 Marines were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded. Allen was reported killed in action Nov. 20, 1943.
In the immediate aftermath of the fighting on Tarawa, U.S. service members who died were buried in a number of battlefield cemeteries, the release said. During World War II, U.S. Navy Combat Engineers, "SeaBees," significantly restructured the landscape to convert the island for use by the military. In 1946 when U.S. Army Graves Registration Service personnel attempted to locate all of the battlefield interments, many of the burials could not be located.
From Nov. 12-27, 2013, History Flight, a private organization, excavated what was believed to be a wartime fighting position on the island of Betio, according to the release. During this excavation History Flight recovered five sets of remains, personal effects and military equipment. Four sets of remains were determined to be Japanese service members and the fifth set was believed to be that of a U.S. Marine. Two sets of military identification tags which correlated to Allen were also found in the fighting position.
In the identification of Allen's remains, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools such as dental and skeletal comparison, which matched Allen's records, the release said.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war -- more than 100,000 of them in the Pacific Theater alone.