HONOLULU -- Marines from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and the Defense POW/MIA
Accounting Agency performed a dignified transfer of remains, Nov. 12, 2015, of
Cpl. Roger K. Nielson, a Marine killed during the WWII Battle of
The Battle of Tarawa took place Nov. 20 1943 on the small island
of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll, and lasted until Nov. 23. More than 18,000 Marines
were sent to capture the island, but coral reefs around the island caused
difficulties for Marines during their initial amphibious assault.
three days of intense fighting, more than 1,000 Marines were killed and more
than 2,000 wounded. Nielson, a Denver native assigned to Company E, 2nd
Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, was reported killed in
action on the first day of battle.
The remains of Cpl. Nielson were recovered June of
this year when History Flight, a privately owned organization working in
cooperation with the DPAA, discovered a long-lost burial trench on Betio where
the remains of what is believed to be 36 Marines from the battle were found.
Amongst those remains was Medal of Honor recipient 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman
Jr., the first of the 36 to be identified and transferred to his hometown of
Knoxvillle, Tennessee. Pfc James P. Reilly, was the second Marine sent home, to
his hometown of Bushnell, Florida.
Now Nielson has been identified by
scientists at DPAA laboratories through dental comparisons that matched, as well
as circumstantial and material evidence.
GySgt. Franklin Rivas, a Marine
with Combat Logistics Battalion 453 and Nielson’s escort, is humbled to take the
World War II Marine home.
“I feel honored to have been chosen to do this
duty,” Rivas said. “Also the timing of the escort really hits my heart, because
I’m escorting a veteran from World War II back home.”
Cpl. Nielson will
now be returned to his family in Denver, where he will be buried Nov. 16, with
full military honors.