The Battle of Tarawa atoll was fought on November 20-23, 1943.

Over 1000 U.S. Marines lost their lives, and over 2000 were wounded, during the 72-hour battle, earning the atoll the name “Bloody Tarawa.”

It’s hard for us now to comprehend such losses in such a short period of time.

Some were buried on the island:

[Empty helmets and spent artillery shells mark the graves of Marines who fell at Tarawa]

Others were not found for decades.

We previously covered the recent return of two others who died in that battle:

Pvt. Emil F. Ragucci as killed on November 20, 1943, the first day of the battle of Tarawa.

[Western Union Telegram dated Dec. 23, 1943, announcing that United States Marine Corps Pvt. Emil Ragucci was killed in action during World War II. Courtesy of the Ragucci family via AP]

Pvt. Ragucci’s body was just returned for burial, met by his surviving brothers.

The U.S. Marines Twitter account provides some details:

Today, the family of Pvt. Emil F. Ragucci laid his remains to rest after he was MIA for nearly 74 years.

Assigned to @2dMarDiv, Ragucci was killed Nov. 20, 1943, the first day of the Battle of Tarawa. About 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed with twice as many wounded.

The AP reported on more of the family history, including how Emil’s brother Nichola was killed just 90 days later in Italy:

For nearly 70 years, Dominic Ragucci believed his brother Emil’s body had been swept out to sea during a World War II battle on a Pacific atoll.

But on Monday, Dominic, 86, and his brother Victor, 91, stood on a tarmac in Philadelphia to greet Emil’s remains as he finally made it home, accompanied from Atlanta by a Marine honor guard and then escorted to a funeral home by state police.

Their mother, who died many years ago, had yearned for such a day. She had buried another son who died in the war and had always hoped Emil could be returned, too.

“My mother always had that on her mind. ‘I want my boy back. I want my boy back,'” Dominic said. “To me, it seemed like a hopeless task.”

Dominic and Victor are the last survivors of an 11-sibling family.

Five brothers fought in the war and two died less than 90 days apart. Nicholas, killed in Italy in 1944, was brought home right after the war. Emil, who died in 1943, remained lost on the Central Pacific atoll of Tarawa, where more than 1,000 Marines were killed in a three-day battle as they stormed the beach.

AP further reported that Pvt. Ragucci’s body was identified in 2013:

A breakthrough came as a result of the work of History Flight Inc., a nonprofit group of forensic anthropologists, archaeologists and other volunteers formed to help repatriate the remains of American soldiers missing in action.

In 2013, they found what was labeled Cemetery 33, a small plot of land with a couple dozen sets of remains. The Department of Defense arranged to fly them to its forensic anthropology lab in Hawaii. Others would continue to be found….

Six years ago, Dominic contacted the Marines and requested a kit to submit his DNA. Last November, the Marines called to say Emil’s remains had been identified in those found by History Flight.

This video of the burial explains:

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Philadelphia. PA Marine Pvt Emil F. Ragucci was laid to rest next to his parents, Nicola and Carmela. Brothers Dominic and old brother Victor along with family and friends paid there last respects.

Welcome home.


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