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thedrifter
12-07-08, 09:24 AM
WWII FIND

By STEFANIE COHEN and JANON FISHER


December 7, 2008 --

"Deeply regret to inform you that your son . . . is missing in action in the performance of his duty and service of his country," read the telegram.

It was January 1944 and Brooklyn Heights resident Nancy Carbone's son Joseph, 19, was presumed dead in a battle called "the stiffest price per square yard that was ever exacted" in Marine history.

Sixty-five years later, former Marine Ted Darcy and commercial pilot Mark Noah believe they've located the remains of 139 US servicemen who never returned from 1943's Battle of Tarawa. Twenty-eight are from New York.

Spurred by the attack on Pearl Harbor - which took place 67 years ago today - the Marines took the tiny Pacific island of Tarawa in just 72 hours.

But victory came at a price: The Americans suffered 1,100 deaths. Among those, 541 men were reported as missing in action.

When the Navy built an airstrip on the island a year later, they removed many of the grave markers. After the war, they were able to repatriate only half the bodies.

Seventeen years ago, ex-Marine Darcy started visiting military aircraft crash sites. On Oahu, he came upon a plane that had crashed into a mountain with a skeleton nearby, and was enraged that the remains had never been properly buried. He went on to develop a database of 72,000 MIAs.

Darcy and Noah flew to Tarawa in January and used ground-penetrating radar to search for gravesites. They claim to have found eight separate military graves.

"We hope this discovery will get the government to do what they should have done a long time ago," Darcy said.

"I think it's wonderful that someone is looking for these soldiers," said Carbone's niece, Maryann Filippelli, 55. "You want to know that if you're going to die for your country, someone will come looking for you."

stefanie.cohen@nypost.com


Ellie