Forensic Archaeological Research in the Recovery of WWII MIA’s on a Pacific atoll: Tarawa


Archaeological research on 538 MIA’s from WWII has been ongoing on the Pacific atoll of Tarawa over the past two years under the auspices of History Flight, an NGO. Tarawa, one of the bloodiest WWII battles in the Pacific, still has hundreds of MIA’s unaccounted for in one of the most densely populated locations on earth. History Flight, with the collaboration of professionals, para-professionals, military volunteers, DOD and the local community have been successful in locating and recovering over 110 individuals. The team has used a trans-disciplinary approach to the research, starting with extensive historical documentation, followed up by extensive archaeological remote sensing, and the use of a cadaver dog. Corroboration of GPR data with cadaver dog alerts and historical information has allowed History Flight to recover over 13,000 human osteological remains, often in direct association and in situ with military artifacts assisting in the field identification of U.S. soldiers versus Japanese. The field detection and archaeological excavation of these "burial" sites has been significantly impeded by the direct impacts to the sites immediately following the cessation of the war, together with impacts of today’s dense population. Procedures and results of this public/private partnership work will be presented.

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Cite this Record

Forensic Archaeological Research in the Recovery of WWII MIA’s on a Pacific atoll: Tarawa. Agamemnon Pantel, Mark Noah, Kristen Baker, Chester Walker, Jay Silverstein. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398165)

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min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;