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Virginia group’s discovery leads to identification of 11 sets of American WWII remains

Even during the pandemic, the work of Defense Department scientists and the nonprofit, History Flight, identified American remains from the WWII Battle of Tarawa.

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — The nation’s enduring promise of “no one left behind,” isn’t put on hold because of the global pandemic. Scientists from the Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency announced the positive DNA identification of 11 sets of American remains last month, all belonging to service members who died in the November 1943 Pacific Battle of Tarawa.

The identifications were made possible because of new excavations on a small sandbar the size of the National Mall – where World War II guns still point towards the Pacific. Anthropologists working for the Fredericksburg-based non-profit, History Flight, discovered an elusive burial row of a lost grave in March 2019, with the results of DNA testing announced days ago.

RELATED: He left Catholic Univ. seminary during WWII for a different calling. Now, he’s finally home

"Scientists are still working on DNA analysis, even during the covid shutdown, every single day," Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, History Flight’s chief operating officer, said. "Once our team made that discovery, we continued to excavate that row, and that row revealed 32 sets of long-missing remains." 


Of the 32 sets, three identifications were made in January and February 2020.

Below are the 11 individuals newly identified from Tarawa since the pandemic began.

Rank & Name                   Service               Date Announced

  1. Pfc. John E. Gillen         USMC Reserve       4/27/2020
  2. Pfc. Harold W. Hayden   USMC Reserve       4/27/2020
  3. Cpl. Raymond J. Tuhey   USMC                     4/27/2020
  4. 1st Lt. Hugh D. Fricks      USMC Reserve        4/27/2020
  5. Sgt. Fred Farris                USMC                      4/17/2020
  6. Pvt. Jacob Cruz                USMC Reserve        4/17/2020
  7. Pfc. Elden R. Baumbach   USMC                       4/16/2020
  8. Sgt. George R. Reeser      USMC                       4/16/2020
  9. Pfc. John W. Hoffman, Jr.  USMC Reserve          4/16/2020
  10. Pvt. Jack R. Stambaugh    USMC                       4/15/2020
  11. Sgt. Donald D. Stoddard   USMC                        4/06/2020

RELATED: Fallen & Forgotten: Why were these missing WWII heroes buried under pavement?

RELATED: BLOG: Journey to Tarawa

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