The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, accounted-for from World War II, are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Paul D. Gilman, 19, of Belen, New Mexico, accounted for on May 17, 2018, will be buried October 26 in his hometown. In November 1943, Gilman was assigned to Company M, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, in an attempt to secure the island. Over several days of intense fighting at Tarawa, approximately 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded, but the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Gilman died on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, 1943.
The battle of Tarawa was a huge victory for the U.S. military because the Gilbert Islands provided the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet a platform from which to launch assaults on the Marshall and Caroline Islands to advance their Central Pacific Campaign against Japan.
In the immediate aftermath of the fighting on Tarawa, U.S. service members who died in the battle were buried in a number of battlefield cemeteries on the island. In the case of Gilman, records indicate his remains were recovered and were buried in Division Cemetery #3, which was later renamed Cemetery #27. In 1946 the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company (604th GRC) centralized all of the American remains found on Betio Island to Lone Palm Cemetery for later repatriation; however, almost half of the known casualties from the battle were not found., Gilman’s remains were among those not recovered. On Oct. 14, 1949, a military review board declared Gilman’s remains non-recoverable.
In May and June 2015, a nongovernmental organization, History Flight, Inc., notified DPAA that they discovered a burial site on Betio Island and recovered the remains of what they believed were 35 U.S. Marines who fought during the battle in November 1943. Subsequent recoveries in November 2015 and February 2016 resulted in additional remains. The remains were turned over to DPAA in June 2016.
To identify Gilman’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.
DPAA is grateful to History Flight, Inc., for their partnership in this mission.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,790 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Gilman’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others killed or lost in WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or call (703) 699-1420/1169.
Gilman’s personnel profile can be viewed at https://dpaa.secure.force.com/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt00000004ramEAA