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Virtual WN@tL: “Recovery and Identification of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion: The First Battle of Makin Island”

March 31 @ 7:00 pm - 8:15 pm

Speaker: William Belcher, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


During the early days of World War II, Col. Evans Carlson trained two battalions of US Marines in guerilla warfare and amphibious assault. In August of 1942, those skills were put to the test in an assault on a Japanese Seaplane base on Butaritari Island (aka Makin Island) to divert resources from the main objective on Guadalcanal. In the aftermath of this assault, 30 US Marines were killed, but left behind during the hasty retreat. In 1999, the precursor to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the US Army Central Identification Laboratory located and excavated the remains of 19 of these Marines (along with one local islander). Using standard forensic techniques and the then innovative analysis of mitochondrial DNA, all 19 individuals were identified and returned to their families. This presentation will briefly go over the history and excavation of the site, but primarily focus on the techniques used to identify the individuals.

Speaker Bio: 

I am a forensic anthropologist and archaeologist, but also an environmental archaeologist with a specialty in animal bones from archaeological sites-zooarchaeology. I am interested in understanding the application of forensic anthropological methods to the identification of human remains. These are important to the families and friends of descendants as forensic anthropology brings the identification back to a family for closure of an emotion and situation of loss. We attempt to recover possible human remains restore the identity to loved ones through research-based forensic science. As the Coordinator for the Graduate Certificate in Forensic Anthropology, I welcome students at the undergraduate and graduate level to learn the identification techniques and processes as a service-based discipline as UNL.

Zoom link: https://uwmadison.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUrce2vrDwtHNBMv0FxIcmw56npNOhu831_



March 31
7:00 pm - 8:15 pm
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