In three days the remains of Marine Pfc. James S. Smith, 19, of Liberty, Mississippi, will be interred in Liberty, Mississippi.
Smith was assigned to Company C, 2nd Amphibious Tractor Battalion, 2nd Marine Division in November 1943. He was one of 1,000 men killed after meeting stiff resistance during the assault on the little island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Smith was killed Nov. 20, 1943, during the first day of battle.
Smith’s company had 20 casualties during the battle with over three-quarters of them happening on the initial day. His casualty card originally listed him as missing in action and did not record burial data. The Navy made an assumed finding of death as of Nov. 21, 1944, based on the lack of information regarding his location.
A nongovernmental organization, History Flight, Inc., notified the DPAA in June 2011 that they discovered a burial ground on Betio Island. A Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (now DPAA) team excavated the site in 2012 and removed the remains of three individuals.
To confirm Smith’s remains, DPAA scientists used laboratory analysis and incidental evidence which included anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis and dental comparisons, which matched Smith’s records.