History Flight working to recover remains of service members killed during Battle of Tarawa in WWII

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Friday, September 20th was National POW/MIA Recognition day. The day brings awareness to the fact that more than 81,000 service members are still unaccounted for in global conflicts. It also honors those who were prisoners of war (POW), as well as their families.

More than 72,000 of the unaccounted are from World War II. 1,511 Hoosiers are among those who are still unaccounted for from World War II.

The 76-hour Battle of Tarawa in November 1943 was deadly for the U.S. Marines and Navy. One thousand men were killed. They were all originally buried in temporary cemeteries. As the war intensified, their graves were moved and the original records became inaccurate and made it hard for them to be found after the war.

Right now, a non-profit by the name of History Flight is in Tarawa recovering remains of U.S. service members including those of Hoosiers.

In a CBS4 exclusive interview, the director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency told us about a discovery History Flight made in July.

"They found a cemetery that had been missing for decades and it turned out to the remains of 32 Marines, lined up in this cemetery so close together that hands were touching the Marine next to them." said DPAA director, Kelly McKeague.

Some of those Marines were repatriated by to the U.S. in July. More are expected to be repatriated at the end of September.

History Flight is responsible for finding one of Indiana's Very Own. They recovered the remains of Marine Pvt. Fred Freet in 2015. Private Freet was buried this past April in Marion. 

If you'd like to learn more about History Flight and how you can help the non-profit bring home unaccounted service members, click here.

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