WW II Marine Identified After 78 Years Receives Burial at Fort Custer
78 years after being killed in battle a Michigan Marine has been returned home for a proper burial.
A West Michigan Marine is being laid to rest at Fort Custer National Cemetery after being during an intense World War II battle on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands.
Marine Corps Cpl. Andrew Pellerito was a Grand Rapids, Michigan native. His remains went unidentified until earlier this year, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
In November 1943, Marine Corps Cpl. Pellerito was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio, in an attempt to secure the island with U.S. forces.
There were several days of intense fighting at Tarawa. Approximately 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded. Pellerito was killed on the first day of the battle, November 20, 1943. His remains were reportedly buried in Cemetery 33. Over half of the known casualties were never found.
In 1946, all American remains that were found on Tarawa at Lone Palm Cemetery were brought to Hawaii for further analysis in hopes of learning the identities of the unknown. Marine Corps Cpl. Pellerito was later listed as “non-recoverable.”
A nonprofit organization discovered a burial site on Tawa's Betio Island in 2009. Through DNA and other analysis and evidence, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System identified Pellerito’s remains in August 2021.
Burial Marine Corps Cpl. Andrew Pellerito will take place Tuesday, November 30, 2021, at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Michigan.
Efforts to identify members of the United States Armed Forces killed in action during World War II have remained ongoing. In September it was announced that two Michigan Sailers killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor had been identified and would be returning home for burial.