The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Marine Corps Pvt. Edwin F. Benson, 22, of West Newton, Massachusetts, killed during World War II, was accounted for on June 24, 2019.
(This identification was initially published Aug. 13, 2019.)
In November 1943, Benson was a member of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 2nd 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, while the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Benson was killed on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, 1943. He was reported to have been buried in the East Division Cemetery, which was eventually renamed to Cemetery #33.
Despite the heavy casualties suffered by U.S. forces, military success in the battle of Tarawa was a huge victory for the U.S. military because the Gilbert Islands provided the U.S. Pacific Fleet a platform from which to launch assaults on the Marshall and Caroline Islands to advance their Central Pacific Campaign against Japan.
Between 1946 and 1947, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company conducted remains recovery operations on Betio, but Benson’s remains were not identified. All of the remains found on Tarawa were sent to the Schofield Barracks Central Identification Laboratory for identification in 1947. By 1949, the remains that had not been identified were interred as unknowns in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, including one set, designated as Tarawa Unknown X-155.
On Jan. 30, 2017, DPAA disinterred Tarawa Unknown X-155 from the Punchbowl for identification.
To identify Benson’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) analysis.
DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of the Navy 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 72,648 service members still unaccounted for from World War II with approximately 30,000 assessed as possibly recoverable. Benson’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Benson will be buried Nov. 19, 2019, at Arlington National Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia.