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Clay Bonnyman Evans
Marines killed in water
Sun Apr 2, 2017 10:41

I can certainly see that bodies found floating in the lagoon beyond the reef might have been sunk, though of course there are many, many reports of Navy personnel using hooks to retrieve remains from the water, as well.

While working these past many years with History Flight, Inc., which has now recovered the intact remains of 60+ Tarawa MIAs, as well as partial remains for at least 40 more, our scientists have actually uncovered an interesting area for research.

Bodies that had lain exposed for more than a day or two—some killed on D-Day were buried by the next day, according to documents, but not many—were buried wrapped in their rubber-infused ponchos. Interestingly, most of those we have recovered have been wrapped in ponchos, which create a micro-environment under the soil. In that environment, some things are preserved—hair, leather, even cigarettes—but it accelerates the process of bone decomposition, so osseous materials are very brittle.

Remains not covered in a poncho, such as my grandfather's (he was killed in the afternoon the day before the fighting was over on Betio) feature mostly very well-preserved bones, but little in the way of the other types of material I mention above.

Ponchos were used to help transport badly decomposed remains, so in general, those without ponchos were killed much later in the battle.

At any rate, it's opened a new area of intriguing research.

  • bodies "sunk in place"Ed Gilbert, Sun Apr 2 08:30
    The bodies sunk in place were only ones that had washed well out into the lagoon, past the lip of the dished reef edge. When bodies were too badly decomposed it was impossible to recover them from... more
    • Re: bodies "sunk in place"George E Proulx, Tue Nov 28 19:05
      Where is this photo collection Ed and how might I be granted access? I only wish to view the background in each photo if it exists. Thanks, George
    • Marines killed in water — Clay Bonnyman Evans, Sun Apr 2 10:41
      • Ponchos etc.matt holly, Wed Nov 29 00:33
        The ponchos makes another interesting sub-group of potential ID's from those such recoveries. It may also help date the loss, and thus help verify the ID of the MIA. Good info. I have also read in... more
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