- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2001

The remains of 13 U.S. Marines who fell in battle 59 years ago in the South Pacific yesterday began the second leg of a long journey to a final resting place with a solemn military send-off at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.
A color guard marching in slow procession escorted the flag-draped caskets to an Air Force transport plane on the base's runway, military spokesmen said. The base commander and U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, who lost an arm in World War II, spoke reverently of the men, whose bodies were recovered two years ago on Butaritari Island in Kiribati.
"As we gather this beautiful morning, I am humbled that 59 years ago, nearly to the day, our brave Marines took the offensive and made the ultimate sacrifice," Mr. Inouye said in prepared remarks.
"It took our nation over 50 years to recover and to begin to pay proper tribute to these fallen Marines. It is never too late. Never too late to do what is right — to accord the proper accolades upon our heroes who truly gave their all for the country they loved, and died defending her honor," said Mr. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat and Medal of Honor recipient.
The remains are en route to Arlington National Cemetery, where they will be interred tomorrow during a ceremony with full honors. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James L. Jones is scheduled to eulogize the men.
For nearly six decades, the Corps had listed as "missing in action" its members of the 2nd Raider Battalion, who attacked a Japanese garrison on Butaritari in the Makin Atoll at dawn Aug. 17, 1942.
The raid was not only intended to destroy the garrison but to distract Japanese on the Makin Atoll from Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands to the south, where U.S. troops had landed 10 days earlier.
The Raiders had climbed out of specially configured submarines, the Nautilus and the Argonaut, into small rubber boats to land on the beach. Although a rifle accidentally discharged, the attack was successful and 83 Japanese soldiers were killed.
Mr. Inouye pointed out that the Marines also destroyed valuable enemy radio stations, nearly 1,000 barrels of aviation fuel, two ships and two planes.
The Raiders had problems when they started to withdraw that afternoon. Rain and raging waves interfered with a return trip to the subs, and about half of the surviving battalion made it. The others, commanded by Col. Evans F. Carlson, remained on the island until all but nine were able to board the submarines.
Col. Carlson gave $50 to island natives to bury the dead Marines. The other nine eluded Japanese troops for about a week. They eventually surrendered and were taken to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where they were beheaded a few weeks later.
Three years after the war ended in 1945, a military team searched for the Marines and found none. The Japanese commander who ordered the beheadings was subsequently executed for war crimes.
A survivor — Pvt. Ben Carson, now 77 and living in Hillsborough, Ore. — pestered the military to find the bodies of his dead buddies: The Marine Raider Association, which will attend the Arlington ceremony, was formed.
The bodies, several with their dogtags, were found in the fall of 1999 and taken to an Army base in Hawaii. A year later, they were identified and their families notified.
The 13 Marines to be buried at Arlington are Sgt. Clyde Thomason of Atlanta, who was the first enlisted Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II; Capt. Gerald P. Holtom of Palo Alto, Calif.; Field Musician First Class Vernon L. Castle of Stillwater, Okla.; Cpl. Daniel A. Gaston of Galveston, Texas; Cpl. Edward Maciejewski of Chicago; Cpl. Robert B. Pearson of Lafayette, Calif.; Pfc. William A. Gallagher of Wyandotte, Mich.; Pfc. Kenneth M. Montgomery of Eden, Wis.; Pfc. John E. Vandenberg of Kenosha, Wis.; Pvt. Carlyle O. Larson of Glenwood, Minn.; Pvt. Robert B. Maulding of Vista, Calif.; Pvt. Franklin M. Nodland of Marshalltown, Iowa; and Pvt. Charles A. Selby of Ontonagon, Mich.
Families of six Raiders have claimed their remains for funerals at home. They are Cpl. Mason O. Yarbrough of Sikeston, Mo.; Cpl. I.B. Earles of Tulare, Calif.; Cpl. Harris J. Johnson of Little Rock, Iowa; Cpl. Kenneth K. Kunkle of Mountain Home, Ark.; Pfc. Ashley W. Hicks of Waterford, Calif.; and Pfc. Norman W. Mortensen of Camp Douglas, Wis.
Another solemn ceremony will greet the Marines' remains this morning when the transport lands at Andrews Air Force Base at 9:30 a.m. Marines from the D.C. barracks and the U.S. Marine Band, known as the President's Own, will perform as the caskets are removed and taken to Arlington National Cemetery.
Mr. Inouye said the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion was highly decorated for its World War II battles, in which 892 Raiders died. "Welcome home," he said yesterday. "Rest in peace. God bless them. God Bless America."

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