The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Marine Corps Sgt. Duane O. Cole, 23, of Niles, Michigan, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Sept. 3, 2019.
In November 1943, Cole was a member of Company K, 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, while the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Cole was killed on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, 1943. His remains were reportedly buried in either Division Cemetery 5 or Central Division Cemetery, later renamed Cemetery 26.
In 1946, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company centralized all of the American remains found on Tarawa to Lone Palm Cemetery for later repatriation; however, almost half of the known casualties were never found. No recovered remains could be associated with Cole, and in October 1949, a Board of Review declared him “non-recoverable.”
In 2014, History Flight, Inc., a nonprofit organization, located Cemetery 26. Excavations uncovered multiple sets of remains, which were turned over to DPAA.
To identify Cole’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
Cole’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Cole’s will be buried June 20, 2020, in Spooner, Wisconsin.