How One Man Leads Hunt for Lost WWII Marines

In Tawara, amateur historian Mark Noah digs up lost servicemen
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 24, 2013 3:56 PM CST
Defying Feds, One Man Led Hunt for Dead WWII Marines
Marines storm Tawara, November 1943.   (Wikimedia Commons)

Heard of the WWII battle of Tarawa? It isn't world-famous, but more than 1,100 Marines died at the Pacific atoll when their boats got stuck in low tide and the Japanese mowed them down. The US won in the end, but up to 520 Marines, later buried in shallow graves, never came home. "I almost fell out of my chair" over that fact, said amateur historian Mark Noah, who has lived around the world and became obsessed with WWII when he saw maimed veterans living on the streets. He decided a few years ago to bring as many Marines as possible back home from Tarawa—but little did he know that the US government didn't want his help. After butting heads with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, Noah eventually got them to join his search, the New York Times Magazine reports.

"I said: 'You know what? We can't stop him,'" said the lead JPAC archaeologist. "'Let's see what he's doing.'" It's hard work, too, because Tarawa is poor and overpopulated, with garbage-strewn beaches and increasing leprosy. But studies show that their finds are invaluable for the families of dead servicemen, who can suffer for generations and cling to the notion that loved ones remain alive somewhere. Noah and his new JPAC colleagues have had successes, too, like bringing the body of Marine Manley Winkley back home to Nashville, Indiana. "There were probably about 4,000 people standing on the side of the road" during his funeral, said Noah. "All these little towns were shut down. It made me feel like we had helped to put some of the America back in America." Click for the full article. (More World War II stories.)

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