The remains of thirty-six American Marines discovered in Kiribati earlier this year have been repatriated to the United States.
A US charity discovered the bodies which included a Congressional Medal of Honour recipient, at the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific during World War II.
A repatriation ceremony was held in Tarawa on Saturday before the remains arrived in Honolulu.
“I was very pleased to learn of the discovery of the remains of our marines on the island of Tarawa – one of our most significant and contested battles,” Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Joseph Dunford said.
“This battle demonstrated the indomitable fighting spirits of our marines.
“It was also the first contested landing against a heavily fortified enemy and turning point in the development in our amphibious capability.
“The lessons learned at Tarawa paved the way for our success in the Pacific campaign and eventual end to war.”
The Marines invaded Japanese-held Tarawa Atoll in November 1943, where more than one thousand Americans died and the entire Japanese garrison of 4,800 was wiped out.
Once identification is complete, their remains will be returned to families for burial with full military honours.
The remains were discovered by US charity History Flight after a four –month excavation on Betio Island, part of Kiribati’s Tarawa Atoll, in the culmination of a multi-million-dollar, nine-year research project.
The discovery in March ended a 70-year-old mystery.