The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Caisson Platoon; a trumpeter and drummer from “The President’s Own” Marine Band; and Marines from the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., conduct modified military funeral honors with funeral escort for U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pvt. 1st Class Charles Miller in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Oct. 23, 2020.
Miller was killed in the Tarawa Atoll during World War II at age 19.
In November 1943, Miller was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, 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. Miller died on the third day of battle, Nov. 22, 1943. He was reported to have been buried in Row D of the East Division Cemetery, later renamed Cemetery 33.
In 1946, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company centralized all of the American remains found on Tarawa at Lone Palm Cemetery for later repatriation. However, almost half of the known casualties were never found. No recovered remains could be associated with Miller, 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 March 2019, excavations west of Cemetery 33 revealed a previously undiscovered burial site that has since been identified as Row D. The remains recovered at this site were transferred to the DPAA Laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
To identify Miller’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. Miller’s remains were officially identified for on May 19, 2020.