Today, after 73 years, one of the 500-plus Marines missing on Tarawa Island has found his way home.
Private Robert Carter’s body was originally considered ‘unrecoverable’, lost in the heat of conflict in one of the deadliest battles of the Pacific theatre.
Often referred to as the “Square Mile of Hell,” the Japanese bragged that it would take a million men 100 years to capture Tarawa. The United States Marines took it in three days – but at a cost of more than 1,200 men.
Private Carter was killed on the very first day of the battle, many believe he was killed by artillery that hit his landing craft, others said he was lost attempting to wade ashore.
The November, 1943, battle took a major toll on many, most men were buried in trenches, some under pig sties, others simply lost at sea.
But Private Carter had brothers in arms who refused to give up on him – and today marks the successful battle to bring him home with the rest of his comrades.
Private Carter was just 18-years-old at the time, he had enlisted in the service the year before.
For seven long decades, his body was lost, but that all changed when he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery after ‘History Flight’, a charity organisation dedicated to bringing home the missing, found Private Carter and 34 other Marines buried in a long row near Red Beach One.
Though his mother and father are long gone, his four brothers and sister already passed, his youngest sister attended the burial with full military honours at Arlington National Cemetery.
Today the remains of nearly 500 missing Marines are still on Tarawa – ‘History Flight’ acknowledged that they have recently recovered several more sets of remains on the island. The Defense Department is now working to positively identify them, and bring them home.
In October 2008, ‘History Flight’ discovered one of the largest burials of the Pacific Theatre on an Atoll of Tarawa Island – 139 servicemen were discovered on Kiribati and successfully brought home with full honours.