Pfc. James Johnson
ARLINGTON VA – The remains of Marine Pfc. James Johnson of Poughkeepsie, who was killed on November 20, 1943 during intense fighting against the Japanese on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Johnson’s unit landed on the island against stiff Japanese resistance as they attempted to secure the island.
Over several days of fighting, some 1,000 marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded. The Japanese were virtually annihilated. Johnson died during the first day of battle.
The battle of Tarawa was a huge victory for the US military because the Gilbert Islands provided the Navy Pacific Fleet a platform from which to launch assaults on the Marshall and Caroline Islands to advance their Central Pacific Campaign against Japan.
Immediately after the battles, US service members who died in battle were buried in a number of battlefield cemeteries on the island. In 1946 and 1947, the military unit responsible for conducting remains recovery operations on Betio Island, were not able to recover Johnson’s remains and on February 28, 1949, a military review board declared his remains non-recoverable.
In June 2015, a non-governmental organization, History Flight, Inc. notified the military that they had discovered a burial site on Betio Island and recovered the remains of what they believed were 35 US Marines who fought during the battle in November 1943.
The remains were turned over to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
with scientists using DNA testing were able to match them to a nephew.
Pfc. Johnson will be buried today (May 31).