News & Stories
Press Release | Oct. 29, 2021

Marine Accounted For From World War II (Pellerito, A.)

WASHINGTON  –   The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Marine Corps Cpl. Andrew Pellerito, 22, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Aug. 19, 2021.

In November 1943, Pellerito was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 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, while the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Pellerito was killed on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20. His remains were reportedly buried in Cemetery 33.

In 1946, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company centralized all American remains found on Tarawa at Lone Palm Cemetery for later repatriation. Almost half of the known casualties were never found. The remains that were recovered were sent to Hawaii for analysis. Those that could not be identified or associated with one of the missing were buried as Unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, including one set designated Tarawa Unknown X-118. None of the recovered remains could be associated with Pellerito, and, in October 1949, a Board of Review declared him “non-recoverable.”

In 2009, History Flight, Inc., a nonprofit organization, discovered a burial site on Betio Island believed to be Cemetery 33, which has been the site of numerous excavations ever since. In 2014, possible human remains and identification media were found and were turned over to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, a DPAA predecessor.

At the end of 2016, DPAA disinterred Tarawa Unknown X-118 from the Punchbowl as part of an effort to identify the Tarawa Unknowns buried there. Scientific analysis determined that elements of the History Flight turnover were associated with X-118.

To identify Pellerito’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.

Pellerito’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific along with the others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Pellerito will be buried Nov. 30, 2021, in Augusta, Michigan.

For family and funeral information, contact the Marine Corps Casualty Office at (800) 847-1597.

DPAA is grateful to the Republic of Kiribati and appreciative to History Flight, Inc., for their partnership in this mission.

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, or find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or https://www.linkedin.com/company/defense-pow-mia-accounting-agency.

Pellerito’s personnel profile can be viewed at https://dpaa-mil.sites.crmforce.mil/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt0000000Xl0kEAC.

Public Affairs Contact Information


Public Affairs Office
Washington, D.C.
2300 Defense Pentagon
Attn: External Affairs
Washington, D.C. 20301-2300
Phone: (703) 699-1420