Lost Heroes of Tarawa

 

Dear Mr. President,

I have waited now another month since writing you and have had no word from my son.  Won’t you please let me know where my boy is?  The last news we had of our son, he was fighting at Guadalcanal.  If you can in any way find out if he is all right please let his Dad and I know, we are so worried.  He had been writing 2 letters every two weeks up until then.  I have written him twice a week.  Can’t you give me some little idea where he is and what command he is serving under?  It’s awful hard to give your only son up and not even know where he is, or anything, not a word.  He is our only boy and is only 19 and we love him so.  Please if you can, let us have some word of him. 

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TELEGRAM

From:  THE COMMANDANT U. S. MARINE CORPS

23 DECEMBER 1943

DEEPLY REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON WAS KILLED IN ACTION IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS DUTY AND IN THE SERVICE OF HIS COUNTRY.  TO PREVENT POSSIBLE AID TO OUR ENEMIES PLEASE DO NOT DIVULGE THE NAME OF HIS SHIP OR STATION.   PRESENT SITUATION NECESSITATES INTERMENT TEMPORARILY IN THE LOCALITY WHERE DEATH OCCURRED AND YOU WILL BE NOTIFIED ACCORDINGLY.  PLEASE ACCEPT MY HEARTFELT SYMPATHY.  LETTER FOLLOW.

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Dear Sir,

Just received your letter of Jan 6, 1944 in regards to my son’s death.  You stated in this letter, death occurred Nov. 20, 1943.  I received a letter from my son saying he was aboard ship, this letter was not dated, but was post marked Dec. 20, 1943.  Couldn’t there be a mistake about my son being killed?  Please investigate this.  We have every hope he is alive and God grant that he is.  Will you send us a wire about this as soon as possible?  We are so worried.  We also have hopes now that our son is still with us.

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SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM CHIEF STONE REGARDING THE LOST HEROES OF TARAWA

“During my year of frustration serving with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), I read dozens, if not hundreds of letters in the case files from family members and exchanges between mothers and the government like the ones above.   The anxiety and overwhelming need for specific information about their missing loved ones often lasted right up until the death of the family member.  In some cases, the last letter in the file was dated the same day the parent died, many decades after the end of World War II.

It was heartbreaking to read their anguished pleas.  It was even more heartbreaking to see the dysfunctional management and leadership disaster at JPAC and watch the continuing efforts by those in command to “slow roll” remaining family members by refusing to provide information from our files that would have either brought the families closure or provided for the possibility that their loved ones might ultimately be found, identified, and returned home for burial.  When I complained that we should tell the family members what we knew, the response by the command was “We don’t want to give them false hope.”  My retort was always the same, “How about we tell the families the truth and let them decide if there is hope, false or otherwise?”  To that query, there was never an answer…only more dysfunction, retaliation, slow rolling, and frustration.  The management mantra of “Delay, Deny, and Wait for the Families to Die” was in full bloom.

One of my assignments with JPAC was as the primary investigator for over 500 cases of those who were unaccounted for from the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943.  I read each case file repeatedly, researched each individual MIA, and studied their pictures as if to find a clue to their whereabouts in their faces; forever frozen in time in black and white government photographs.   Every hour away from my government desk, I began building a “Master Tarawa Casualty Research Database” with dozens of individual datasets on each individual MIA from the battle for use with a profiling system known as RISC or “Random Incident Statistical Correlations” that I had developed during my law enforcement career.   I used the principles of the RISC system, in conjunction with this database, to provide the basis for recommendations for forensic identification analysis on remains recovered from Tarawa, including 103 individuals from Tarawa who are buried as “Unknowns” in the National Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), only a few miles from the Department of Defense identification laboratory.

The JPAC command arrogantly rejected the idea that simple deductive reasoning techniques and adopting new forensic technologies such as DNA could possibly assist the JPAC laboratory in their pursuit of spending over a hundred millions dollars each year to produce only five or six dozen identifications annually.  Such techniques and forensic tools used all over the world for decades by law enforcement was derided as “voodoo science” by the JPAC laboratory.  In the final analysis, the JPAC laboratory manager rejected all of our offers to help them identify the “Lost Heroes of Tarawa”.

It was only after the Department of Defense was under intense public scrutiny by multiple investigatory bodies, including Congress, that JPAC was finally disbanded.

The disgraceful dysfunction at JPAC has not stopped our family charitable foundation from pursuing the cases of these “Lost Heroes”.  Thanks to your contributions and a lot of very hard work by many Foundation researchers all over the world, we have provided almost 300 comprehensive “Family Reports” to family members of these missing American servicemen to provide factual information about each individual loss.  Whether the “Family Reports” result in closure or hope, the information provided is the truth and constitutes all that is currently known about each individual case.

One of our Foundation researchers and webmaster extraordinaire has put together an alphabetical photo gallery presentation of the over 450 “Lost Heroes of Tarawa” whose cases remain “unresolved” to this day.  This presentation is intended to be just a brief introduction to “our Tarawa kids”, a phrase we have affectionately adopted while we seek their recovery, identification, and return home to their real families.  Please note that the photographs are protected by United States copyright laws. 

If you are a family member of one of these “Lost Heroes of Tarawa” please contact our Foundation at the link on this page so that we may send you a customized “Family Report”, including any available photographs, with a great deal more information about your family member. 

There is ABSOLUTELY NO CHARGE for our services.” 

Copyright (C) 2012-2017 Chief Rick Stone & Family Charitable Foundation. All Rights Reserved.